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Developing effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

One core aspect of working competently with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is the ability to establish and maintain effective relationships. Nelson and Allison (2007) explored the key components of socially and culturally appropriate services for urban Indigenous people and found that ‘the relationship seemed to be the pivotal factor underlying the success of therapy’ (p.62).

Students will need support to understand the importance of building relationships with Indigenous clients. They will also need to develop an understanding of the value in developing effective relationships with the client’s whole family as well as with people in established relationships with the client such as local health workers or teachers.

In this video, Dr Alison Nelson explains why relationship building is so important and describes her approach to establishing effective relationships.



The ability to develop effective relationships will require an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and adequate communication skills.


Nelson, A and Allison, H. (2007). Relationships: the key to effective occupational therapy practice with urban Australian Indigenous children. Occupational Therapy International, 14(1), 57–70.


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