What does an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social worker do?

Social workers work with individuals, families, groups and communities in the context of their physical, social and cultural environments, their past and current experiences and their cultural and belief systems. They may undertake casework, counselling, advocacy and community engagement to address issues. They may also work in areas such as policy development and research around issues of social justice, disadvantage and marginalisation of people in their communities or society. An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social worker will do all this within the context of indigenous culture.


  • Counselling of patients, families and groups
  • Work with indigenous communities for better social outcomes
  • Engage in research, policy development and advocacy
  • Maintain case history records and prepare reports
  • Collaborate with other health professionals

What skills do I need to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social worker?

Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and communities, you will need to be able to work in situations that are often challenging. The ability to collaborate with other health professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders is essential, as is the need for empathy and good communication skills – both speaking and listening – with your patients. Social workers need to have good organisational skills and be good at completing paperwork.

  • Understanding of issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Complex problem solving skills and critical thinking
  • Active listening skills
  • Sound judgement and decision making skills
  • Willingness to help others


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workers already operate within a specialist niche in the social work field, however there are different working situations open to them. They may be based in urban, remote or rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities giving direct support, or be specialists working within institutions, community service organisations or public health services.

Addictions and mental health social workers

Social workers can give support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients who are struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse by providing individual and group counselling, interviewing during crises, case management, advocacy, prevention and education.

Social work in communities

Social work is one of the key human service professions that develops and provides services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Social workers need to understand and display the values, knowledge and skills to work in a culturally responsive way with these communities and provide them with the service and support they need.

Family, child or school social work

With the historic context of the affects of white colonisation, the Stolen Generations and the cultural damage it has inflicted on many indigenous people, families and communities, social workers need to provide assistance and advocacy for indigenous children and their families. This might include addressing abuse, isolation, discrimination, behavioural issues, drug use, truancy, delinquency and so on.

Study pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workers

A bachelor or masters degree in social work is required to become a social worker in Australia. Many employers also require membership of the Australian Association of Social Workers.

Getting Started

Take the first step towards a rewarding and challenging career in social work.

Skill Building

Work towards your career goals with targeted study in social work.

Professional Development

Give yourself a professional advantage when you pursue specialised study in social work.

Industry Recognition

You may need to undergo police, working with children and other background checks prior to commencing employment as a social worker. Check with your state authority for requirements.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your social work career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for social work jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Over the past five years, job openings for social workers rose quite strongly. Looking forward for the next five years, job openings in this field is expected to continue to have strong growth.