Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and child rearing

Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and child rearing

Shaun Lohoar, Nick Butera and Edita Kennedy

CFCA Paper No. 25 — September 2014
Strengths of Australian Aboriginal cultural practices in family life and child rearing

Key messages

Aboriginal kinship relations reflect a complex and dynamic system that is not captured by existing non-Indigenous definitions of family.

Emerging evidence supports some of the strengths of traditional Aboriginal culture in family functioning and raising children, yet conventional academic wisdom can be incompatible with traditional Aboriginal knowledge systems.

The strengths of Aboriginal cultural traditions, as they apply to family life and raising children, revolve around four interrelated themes, including:

  • Theme 1: A collective community focus on child rearing helps children - The values of interdependence, group cohesion and community loyalty are key features of Aboriginal family and community life, where raising children is considered to be a shared responsibility of all community members.
  • Theme 2: Children need the freedom to explore and experience the world - Aboriginal communities offer their children every opportunity to explore the world around them, to help them develop the necessary skills to successfully negotiate their pathways to adulthood.
  • Theme 3: Elderly family members are important to family functioning - The elderly are highly respected for their contributions to family life in Aboriginal communities, particularly in helping children to understand the practical aspects of life and society.
  • Theme 4: Spirituality helps families cope with challenges - Families and communities who engage in spiritual practices benefit from a greater sense of identity, and individuals are more likely to connect with, support and help protect one another.

This paper explores some of the characteristics of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander1 cultural practices that contribute to effective family functioning, and how these practices can have positive effects on children and communities. The approach is to gather the views of Aboriginal families and compare these perspectives with supporting evidence drawn from the literature. The findings suggest that, provided the necessary social conditions are in place, culture can be a protective force for children, families and communities. 

1 For this paper, "Aboriginal" refers to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.

Leave a comment

Hi John, the PDF link is located on the right side of the screen, just beneath the image, under the heading "Download publication". Best wishes, Ken
I can't seem to find a pdf version of this report anywhere. Does it have to be read online?

Authors and Acknowledgements

Shaun Lohoar is a Senior Research Officer at CFCA.

Nick Butera is Manager, Resources at the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care.

Edita Kennedy is an intern from Swinburne University.

The authors wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Kelleigh Ryan and Lisa Hillan at the Healing Foundation, and Kelly Hand, Rhys Price-Robertson and Elly Robinson at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The authors wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the country where we work: the Wurundjeri people. We also acknowledge their traditional neighbours, the Kulin nation, who formed part of a community bond that cared for this country for thousands of generations and still do today. We acknowledge their Elders both past and present who carry the traditions and knowledge today.

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 25
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2014.
20 pp.

Publication meta

Download Publication

Need some help?

CFCA offers a free research and information helpdesk for child, family and community welfare practitioners, service providers, researchers and policy makers through the CFCA News.