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Vol. One / Issue Four:

IndigAbility is a new business initiative that works with Indigenous families who are supported through the NDIS. IndigAbility currently works as a home-based and mobile service and provides services to families in Campbelltown, Narellan, Camden, Wollondilly, Bowral, and Southern Highlands. Due to the inability to locate an Indigenous support worker from other services in the sector, this service was established to cater to the growing number of families needing culturally-responsive support in the South Western Sydney area. IndigAbility doesn’t try to replace the services that families are already using; rather, it aims to support each person’s needs both individually and as part of the collective family structure. IndigAbility can help families access NDIS funding, and ensure that other services are successfully meeting the families’ needs. IndigAbility can also offer support coordination depending on how the client’s NDIS plan is managed, or refer them to a support coordinator if further support is needed.

“Although successful communication is at the heart of the clinical consultation, communication between Aboriginal patients and practitioners such as doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, continues to be problematic and is arguably the biggest barrier to the delivery of successful health care to Aboriginal people” – Lin, Green & Bessarab, 2016

IndigAbility prides itself in providing supportive services where mainstream or non-Indigenous services find it difficult to engage. One example is the way it understands the importance of improving intercultural communication between an Indigenous client and the non-Indigenous service provider. IndigAbility implements culture into every service it provides, as mainstream services can often be confusing to families and end up offering inappropriate or insufficient support. At times, the language, processes and service models that non-Indigenous services utilise can be overwhelming and intimidating for some families. They may have difficulty conveying their needs due to lower literacy levels, or multiple life events making it difficult to apply for NDIS funding. There may also be a lacking sense of safety in talking to non-Indigenous workers. IndigAbility will operate at the family’s own pace and respond in a way that is most beneficial and useful to them.

In addition to this, IndigAbility enables more equitable access to services through its mobile outreach approach. Some families are unable to access fixed mainstream services due to a range of possible reasons. IndigAbility is able to meet them at a place suitable to them, where they are able to discuss what is needed and then develop a plan to meet those needs. As part of its commitment to increasing equitable access to Indigenous communities, IndigAbility is also able to connect families to other external support if needed. Mibayn, created by Kelly Mundine, works in partnership with IndigAbility to provide level 3 support coordination to clients. “Mibayn” is a Bundjalung word from the North Coast, meaning “wedge-tailed eagle” – reflecting the intent for this organisation to be able to fly over and protect people.

The aim of this partnership is to make families aware of the choice they have in their supports. They want to ensure that families feel respected, taken care of, and that the appropriate level of funding is acquired and utilised for the goals outlined by them. Both organisations are aiming to expand their services in due time, and will continue to deliver respectful and culturally safe care to their clients.

To get in touch with IndigAbility, contact Katrina at [email protected].

Evidence in practice

The concept of intercultural communication can be used to explain the pattern of Aboriginal people being misunderstood by non-Aboriginal people. This can result in being disadvantaged through their attempts to talk to and relate their experiences. The discrepancy comes from the two different ways that they conceptualise experience (Harkins, 1994; Malcolm and Sharifian, 2002; Sharifian, 2002a; as cited in Sharifian, 2010). Many words or phrases can often have two different meanings, and each word or phrase can have a different cultural or spiritual history associated with them.

Increasing equitable access to services requires not only successful intercultural communication, but also having transport services, and quality personalised care which respects the clients’ needs and goals. There also needs to be a “provider-client relationship characterised by shared understanding of clients’ needs” (Gomersall et al, 2017).


Gomersall, J.S., Gibson, O., Dwyer, J., O’Donnell, K., Stephenson, M., Carter, D., Canuto, K., Munn, Z., Aromataris, E., & Brown, A. (2017). What Indigenous Australian clients value about primary health care: a systematic review of qualitative evidence. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 41(4). Available from.

Lin, I., Green, C., & Bessarab, D. (2016). ‘Yarn with me’: applying clinical yarning to improve clinician–patient communication in Aboriginal health care. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 22, 377-382. Available from.

Sharifian, F. (2010). Cultural conceptualisations in intercultural communication: A study of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Journal of Pragmatics, 42, 3367-3376. Available from.

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