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  • Writer's pictureRiley Myles

Making sure NDIS services are culturally sensitive for Indigenous participants

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) aims to provide equitable access to support services for all Australians with a disability. However, Indigenous Australians continue to face barriers to accessing and benefiting from the NDIS. As a service provider, you play a crucial role in delivering culturally aware and responsive supports to your Indigenous participants. This contributes to closing the gap in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

Every Indigenous community is unique, with distinct cultural practices and beliefs. it is most important to avoid making generalisations. Take time to understand the local cultural protocols, customs, history and challenges faced by each community you serve. Establish relationships with Elders and knowledge holders. Ask how they would like services delivered and what is important to them.

In most Indigenous cultures, the concept of family extends beyond the nuclear family. Decisions around care and support are made collectively. Recognise participants as part of an interconnected family and community network. Involve Elders, extended family and community representatives in assessment, planning and decision-making.

Strong communication builds trust and understanding. Avoid jargon and use clear, inclusive language. Let participants tell their story in their own words. Actively listen to understand their priorities and concerns. Be patient and allow time for decision-making. Recognise they are the experts in their own lives.

Consider potential barriers to access like language differences, cultural obligations, shame/stigma, racism and geographical isolation. Provide flexible approaches such as outreach services, home visits, language interpretation and culturally adapted resources. Hire Indigenous staff members. Build cultural awareness across your entire workforce.

Respect the holistic nature of social and emotional wellbeing from an Indigenous viewpoint. Incorporate customs around food, music, art, nature or spirituality within your service model, with guidance from the community. Support continued connection to culture to strengthen identity and promote healing.

By delivering NDIS services in culturally sensitive ways, you promote equity and show respect for Indigenous Australians and their rich cultural heritage. This leads to better engagement and outcomes.

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