Understanding where we come from: Occupational therapy with urban Indigenous Australians

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This article outlines issues of service provision for Indigenous families in Brisbane, Australia. It presents guidelines for the development of a socially and culturally appropriate occupational therapy service for urban Indigenous children.


A mixed methodology was used in two independent components of the research. Part 1 comprised a survey of paediatric occupational therapists in Brisbane. Part 2 consisted of focus groups and interviews with recipients of a newly established occupational therapy service for Indigenous children.


Survey findings indicated that very few Indigenous families access mainstream occupational therapy services. Issues and strategies for developing culturally appropriate practice emerged around five main themes. These were the need to develop effective relationships, develop particular personal qualities, understand the background of both the client and the therapist, both gain and give knowledge, and address logistical issues of service delivery.


Service providers need to understand the social and cultural context of both their Indigenous clients and themselves. Recommendations for future education and practice are provided.

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