Indigenous children and families

When an Indigenous child or adolescent experiences trauma, loss or grief, there can be extra complexities that need to be taken into account. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians' experiences of loss are multifaceted and complex, and involve the ‘normal’ losses that people experience as well as the other losses that are specific to Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have historical and cultural ways of dealing with loss. These differences should be considered, however, being culturally sensitive should be balanced with best practice principles.

This section of the hub gives some useful information and background about child and adolescent trauma, loss and grief from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander perspective.

Resources for practitioners

Children at risk: Developmental trauma within a complex trauma environment

 8.16 MB pdf

Read Judy Atkinson's presentation on the multiple and complex experiences of trauma and loss that impact on Indigenous children and families and how to start healing. 

Transgenerational trauma of Indigenous people

 183.21 KB pdf

Podcast transcript of presentation by Frankie Shane Merritt.

Listen to Frankie Shane Merritt discuss the important issues around the impact that transgenerational trauma has on Indigenous children, young people and communities. 

Trauma, loss and grief for Aboriginal children

Video of interviews on trauma, loss and grief of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
In 2009 the Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma Loss and Grief Network asked questions to members of the Footprints in Time Steering Committee:

  • What we really need to know about grief and loss?
  • How do we make sure our children are better able to cope with diversity?
  • How does unresolved grief affect our children’s futures?
  • What are, or aren’t, our systems doing to support our children?

Professor Mick Dodson, AM
National Centre for Indigenous Studies, Australian National University
Ms Adele Cox
Indigenous Consultant, University of Western Australia
Mr Paul Stewart
Onemda, VicHealth Koori Health Unit
Dr Maggie Walter
University of Tasmania
Dr Margaret Weir
Education Consultant and Cross-cultural Researcher

Working with Indigenous children and families at risk

 2.31 MB pdf

This is a presentation by Frankie Shane Merritt, that discusses the intergenerational effects of trauma, loss and adversity on Indigenous children, families and communities. 

Resources for families and carers

How does the past have anything to do with now?

 291.11 KB pdf

Tough times like trauma, loss & grief leave scars, and if we don’t deal with the hurt it can hang around. Unresolved traumas of the past can affect us now.

Indigenous parents and carers: how might trauma, loss and grief affect your bub?

 300.13 KB pdf

Advice for indigenous parents and carers on the impacts of trauma, loss and grief on your child.

We are strong and proud! Strengths for us and our mob

 302.58 KB pdf

As Indigenous people we can heal the effects of the past. We can heal some of the past trauma that we’ve experienced and get through the tough times we face now. We can use our culture to help us heal. 

Other resources

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resource portal

This portal brings together a range of public resources about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This information may be especially helpful for early childhood education and care (ECEC) Services and primary schools working through the KidsMatter framework.

Aboriginal suicide prevention resources

 198.55 KB pdf

A list of resources from various sources, that have been compiled to assist those that may be suicidal.

Child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Child Family Community Australia
This paper provides a snapshot of data describing rates of involvement of Indigenous children in child protection and out-of-home care in 2012-13.

Child protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Australian Institute for Family Studies (AIFS)
This report presents and discusses the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.

Concerns of young Indigenous Australians

Kids Helpline
This report combines quantitative and qualitative data from the national counselling service on Indigenous young people's primary concerns and issues.

Indigenous family violence primary prevention framework

Department of Human Services, VIC Govt.
This framework meets the commitment to develop an Indigenous specific prevention framework for family violence. The framework provides evidence of the range of community led initiatives that are contributing towards the prevention of family violence in Aboriginal communities in Victoria.

Living on the Edge: Social and emotional wellbeing and risk and protective factors for serious psychological distress among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 3.05 MB pdf

Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association
This discussion paper has been prepared to generate discussion around the determinants of Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and to provide a range of recommendations for addressing the current gap in social and emotional wellbeing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The report identifies a number of strengths and protective factors. Includes a discussion of the trauma and grief issues that Indigenous people are experiencing.

Our children, our dreaming

 8.66 MB pdf

Healing Foundation
This paper examines new approaches to achieve safety and well-being of Australian Indigenous children and address their over-representation in statutory child protection services.

Start Stronger, Live Longer

Rio Tinto, Telethon Institute For Child Health Research and Kulunga Research Network
This resource manual comprises of themed booklets that provides practical information on Aboriginal priority health issues with focus on maternal, child and adolescent health and wellbeing. The kit is intended to support Aboriginal health workers in these areas. It contains extensive references and is based on focus group and interview sessions with the Aboriginal community.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviours and deliberate self injury

 222.1 KB pdf

Mental Health First Aid Training and Research Program 
Guidelines from Mental Health First Aid that have been adapted to be specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Suicide prevention in Indigenous communities

 578.88 KB pdf

LIFE – Living is for Everyone
This factsheet discusses issues of suicide prevention and cultural considerations for those working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Supporting carers to care for our children

This newly developed page provides background information and practical ideas in understanding and responding to the needs of Indigenous children, including a section on childhood trauma and healing.

Trauma and loss - MHFA Guidelines for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

 230.22 KB pdf

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Guidelines Project, The MHFA Training & Research Program
Resource that is most useful for professionals and community leaders.  It includes recommendations on how to help an Aboriginal person who has experienced trauma or loss.

Trauma informed services and trauma specific care for Indigenous Australian children

 307.63 KB pdf

Closing the Gap Clearinghouse
This resource sheet provides a thorough overview of services to address the trauma experienced by Australian Indigenous children. It includes discussion of promising practices in trauma informed care.

Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice

Telethon Institute for Child Helath Research/Kulunga Research Network & University of Western Australia
The book's 2nd edition covers priority issues on Aboriginal people's mental health including transgenerational trauma, perinatal and infant mental health, and emotional and behavioral problems in young people. It also has chapters on cultural specific models and programs to assist in healing.

Working Well Guide: Reflections on providing suicide prevention projects in remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia

 665.93 KB pdf

Review of report, Mental Health Association of Central Australia
A report compiled for the We Know Our Strengths Project, a partnership between Waltja Tjukangku Palapayi Aboriginal Corporation and the Life Promotion Program, Mental Health Association of Central Australia

Yarning on sadness

Menzies School of Health Research
This brochure discusses sadness and depression and promotes mental wellbeing by focusing on cultural strengths.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Psychology Interest Group

Australian Psychological Society
This site provides many references to research and publications.

Close the Gap

A national campaign taking action to improve Indigenous health. 

Far North Queensland Suicide Prevention Taskforce

Website designed to provide support and information for those working in Far North Queensland with people who are suicidal from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Footprints in Time: The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC)

Department of Social Services (DSS)
The LSIC study aims to improve the understanding of the diverse circumstances faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families and communities. The study is designed to determine how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children develop resilience, what helps to improve their wellbeing and future and to recognise links between early childhood experiences and later life outcomes. On this website you will find further information about this study, including data and results collected from the first waves of the study.

Indigenous Australia

Oxfam Australia
This website contains information on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and the work that is being done to help Close the Gap. 

The Lowitja Institute

This is Australia's national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health research. The website contains extensive information and research that aims to bring evidence based research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. 

Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS)

Telethon Institute
The WAACHS is the largest and most comprehensive study of Aboriginal child health and development ever undertaken in Australia. This website offers a wealth of information and resources, including free access to all main survey publications, regional profiles and research themes. 

Updated:  15 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Science web team/Page Contact:  Science web team