Community consultation and engagement

When working on policies and programs that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or communities, it is critical that you conduct meaningful and respectful consultation and engagement.


Aboriginal consultation is two-way exchange and flow of information. It empowers Aboriginal people and communities to help make decisions on matters that affect them.

Respectful and effective Aboriginal consultation helps build a strong foundation for good policy development and project design and delivery. It allows organisations to develop a cultural understanding of Aboriginal people and communities, and supports engagement with relevant Aboriginal organisations and services.

When consulting or giving information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the most appropriate protocol is to first approach traditional owner and custodian groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community based organisations and community representatives.

Community organisations will often pass on information to their members about consultations. Individual organisations cannot represent the interests of the whole community, therefore it is an appropriate protocol to consult with as many local community organisations as possible.

Broader consultations will be more appropriate for significant issues because not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members belong to organisations. It may be necessary to hold community information sessions on such issues with follow up individual or small group consultations for community members who have expressed interest in the matter.

Other sources of information and advice can come from colleagues within Transport such as:

It is critical to work collaboratively with Aboriginal organisations and professionals who may offer different information, perspectives and values. Follow these practice tips when seeking to engage Aboriginal communities and organisations:

  1. Talk to Aboriginal staff in your organisation, use websites or local directories to obtain phone numbers and ring and speak to the manager or person whom you have been advised to contact.
  2. Explain where you are from and what you would like to discuss with them.
  3. Advise of confidentiality and privacy issues.
  4. Explain how the information they provide will be used and seek their permission to report the source of information if necessary.
  5. Arrange a time to meet face-to-face, if possible.

Effective consultation with Aboriginal people is an ongoing process. It is important to remember that it may take some time to develop a good working relationship between Aboriginal communities and Transport for NSW. It is always best to seek guidance from local community leaders before beginning a consultation process.

When consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations you should select consultation mechanisms that are culturally sensitive and appropriate. Aboriginal cultures have historically and continue to be many and varied. There is no single Aboriginal culture, so Aboriginal people you consult with may not have all the answers to all your questions. One or two organisations do not represent the interests of the entire community. As such, it is protocol to consult widely to ensure support from the wider community.

Decision-making in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a consultative and participatory process with all community members being invited to have their say before a decision is made.

As members of their communities, Aboriginal workers may have cultural obligations and responsibilities that extend beyond the workplace and sometimes conflicts of interest may occur. These pressures on Aboriginal workers need to be considered.

Refer to the Consulting with Aboriginal communities and organisations (PDF, 47KB) guide for advice on how best to conduct consultations.

When working on policies and programs that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or communities, it is critical that you conduct meaningful and respectful consultation and engagement.


Aboriginal consultation is two-way exchange and flow of information. It empowers Aboriginal people and communities to help make decisions on matters that affect them.

Respectful and effective Aboriginal consultation helps build a strong foundation for good policy development and project design and delivery. It allows organisations to develop a cultural understanding of Aboriginal people and communities, and supports engagement with relevant Aboriginal organisations and services.

When consulting or giving information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the most appropriate protocol is to first approach traditional owner and custodian groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community based organisations and community representatives.

Community organisations will often pass on information to their members about consultations. Individual organisations cannot represent the interests of the whole community, therefore it is an appropriate protocol to consult with as many local community organisations as possible.

Broader consultations will be more appropriate for significant issues because not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members belong to organisations. It may be necessary to hold community information sessions on such issues with follow up individual or small group consultations for community members who have expressed interest in the matter.

Other sources of information and advice can come from colleagues within Transport such as:

It is critical to work collaboratively with Aboriginal organisations and professionals who may offer different information, perspectives and values. Follow these practice tips when seeking to engage Aboriginal communities and organisations:

  1. Talk to Aboriginal staff in your organisation, use websites or local directories to obtain phone numbers and ring and speak to the manager or person whom you have been advised to contact.
  2. Explain where you are from and what you would like to discuss with them.
  3. Advise of confidentiality and privacy issues.
  4. Explain how the information they provide will be used and seek their permission to report the source of information if necessary.
  5. Arrange a time to meet face-to-face, if possible.

Effective consultation with Aboriginal people is an ongoing process. It is important to remember that it may take some time to develop a good working relationship between Aboriginal communities and Transport for NSW. It is always best to seek guidance from local community leaders before beginning a consultation process.

When consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations you should select consultation mechanisms that are culturally sensitive and appropriate. Aboriginal cultures have historically and continue to be many and varied. There is no single Aboriginal culture, so Aboriginal people you consult with may not have all the answers to all your questions. One or two organisations do not represent the interests of the entire community. As such, it is protocol to consult widely to ensure support from the wider community.

Decision-making in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a consultative and participatory process with all community members being invited to have their say before a decision is made.

As members of their communities, Aboriginal workers may have cultural obligations and responsibilities that extend beyond the workplace and sometimes conflicts of interest may occur. These pressures on Aboriginal workers need to be considered.

Refer to the Consulting with Aboriginal communities and organisations (PDF, 47KB) guide for advice on how best to conduct consultations.

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Page last updated: 25 May 2018, 08:21