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Terms related to First Nations people with disability

Disability Royal Commission hearings sometimes use terms that most Australians aren’t very familiar with. We’re keeping a list of these and trying to explain them in plain language. Please feel free to email us at comms@pwd.org.au if you have suggestions for words that should be included.


Child Placement Principle: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP), is a legislative responsibility outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999 (section 83), to guide the decisions and actions taken when an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is unable to remain in the care of their parents.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) recognises the importance of connections to family, community, culture and country in child and family welfare legislation, policy, and practice, and asserts that self-determining communities are central to supporting and maintaining those connections. The ATSICPP has five core elements – prevention, partnership, placement, participation, and connection – that work across the continuum of the child protection system to protect and realise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families, and communities.”

– SNAICC – Understanding and applying the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Child Placement Principle. https://www.snaicc.org.au/understanding-applying-aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-child-placement-principle/

Community controlled service: Community controlled services are established and operated by local First Nations communities to deliver holistic and culturally appropriate support and care to the community which controls it through a locally elected Board.

Country: In the context of hearings related to First Nations people with disability, the term “Country” was used to describe the lands belonging to a First Nations group, rather than Australia as a colonised country.

Culturally and linguistically appropriate services: In Australia, this term is used in the context of First Nations and CALD communities to describe services provided in a way that accounts for diversity of language and culture.

Services designed by the dominant white, western, English speaking culture can sometimes fail to meet the needs of people with diverse backgrounds. Living in a country with diverse cultures means that people sometimes have different ways of structuring communities, understanding gender roles, styles of communication or ideas around what is polite, appropriate, sacred, etc. Failing to take this into account can lead to miscommunications or disengagement from services which can lead to poorer outcomes for disadvantaged people.

Data Sovereignty: This term was used to address the issue of who is asking the questions in the collection of the data used to inform how child protection services are run. First Nations community sovereignty over data is important to ensure the relevant questions are actually being asked.

Family led decision making: In cases where child protection services have become involved with a First Nations family, family led decision making is an approach where decisions are guided by the family of the child, which may include exploring extended family placement options, and actively involving Elders and other significant members of community in the decision-making process.

First Nations people: In Australia, this term is used to describe people from the various Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nations.

Intergenerational trauma: This term refers to the ongoing impact of trauma from generation to generation. First Nations witnesses at Disability Royal Commission hearings have talked specifically about the trauma experienced by the Stolen Generation, and behaviours that may be driven by trauma, including violence, risk taking, drug and alcohol use and difficulty developing safe relationships. In this way, trauma can be passed from one generation to the next. There has been a focus during some hearings on a need for services that address the need to heal.

Mob: A colloquial term for a group of First Nations people associated with a particular place, country, language group or extended family. The term is used to describe people with shared identity and/or community.

Ngangkari: “Ngangkari are the traditional healers of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) lands in the remote western desert of Central Australia. Ngangkari have looked after people’s physical and emotional health for thousands of years.”

(Reference: https://www.npywc.org.au/what-we-do/ngangkari-traditional-healers/)

This term was used in the Disability Royal Commission’s first hearing on the criminal justice system in relation to forensic patients needing access to the traditional healers of their community.

Stolen generation: A generation of First Nations people who were removed from their parents, families or communities when they were children. First Nations people (and First Nations people with disability) remain disproportionately impacted by removals, but this term usually describes the generation impacted by policies active between 1905 and 1967.

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