Cyrenian House and Cultural Security for Aboriginal People

Cyrenian House recognises the resilience and strength of Aboriginal Peoples and acknowledges the oldest continuing culture in human history.

Cyrenian House acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as the Traditional Custodians of this country and its waters.

We pay respect to Elders past and present and extend this to all Aboriginal People viewing this site.

Service provision at Cyrenian House is guided by the Standard on Culturally Secure Practice (Alcohol and other Drug Sector) and our Reconciliation Action Plan.  Cyrenian House recognises that cultural maintenance and revival is integral to individual and community healing and we consider the provision of appropriate, high quality services to Aboriginal people a priority.  The main (but not exclusive) language group currently accessing services at Cyrenian House is the Nyoongar people. The Nyoongar People of the south west corner of Western Australia consist of 28-30,0000 people from 14 clans.

Cultural security training is a core competency requirement for all Cyrenian House staff.  A cultural security training module for the southwest region developed by one of our Aboriginal workers under the guidance of local Aboriginal Elders is delivered to workers at services in the Perth area.  Our staff in Broome access cultural security training specific to the region through local service providers.

Cyrenian House has worked extensively towards improving engagement and retention of Aboriginal Peoples in treatment and currently holds six priority places in the Rick Hammersley Centre Therapeutic Community (RHCTC) for Aboriginal clients. Cyrenian House is recognised within the AOD sector for providing higher than average services to Aboriginal people and has won a number of awards.

Artwork by a TC resident, 2009

Artwork by a TC resident, 2009

Cyrenian House recognises that learning styles, literacy skills, and different world views can all impact in a positive or negative way on the overall treatment experience. Practice wisdom informs us that providing multiple avenues for people to express themselves creates safety, trust and confidence in a resident’s ability to fully participate in the treatment process.

Materials used  for working with Aboriginal Peoples include the Strong Spirit Strong Mind AOD resources developed by the Aboriginal Alcohol and other Drug Program branch of the Drug and Alcohol Office. These resources are evidence based and have been developed specifically by Aboriginal Peoples for Aboriginal Peoples.

Cyrenian House is aware that mainstream counselling is not always appropriate for Aboriginal Peoples as formal counselling environments can often be a silencing factor in their recovery. Rather than limiting options to verbal or written mediums, Aboriginal TC residents are given opportunities to express themselves through art and storytelling.

In consultation with the Aboriginal workers, a ‘Meeting Place’ has been constructed at the RHCTC for Aboriginal residents, families and workers. The facility incorporates an open roof for smoking ceremonies, informal seating arrangements for counselling and an environment suitable for art projects. Message Sticks created by a Nyoongar (Whadjuk) Elder, Uncle Noel Nannup, are given to Aboriginal people travelling out of Country for treatment at the TC to ensure they feel welcome in  Nyoongar Country.

Meeting Place Winding Path

The Aboriginal staff members at Cyrenian House provide ongoing support to all staff to maintain appropriate services for  Aboriginal Peoples accessing Cyrenian House services. Cyrenian House’s working partnership with the Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Service provides further reference point for staff for maintaining culturally secure practice. Existing Aboriginal staff greatly enhance the successful recruitment and retention of future Aboriginal staff by offering recruitment support and ongoing peer support.


Under advice from the Aboriginal members of our Reconciliation Action Plan Committee, the term Aboriginal Peoples is used throughout Cyrenian House publications to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Capital ‘A’ in Australian Aboriginal distinguishes them from other aboriginal peoples. Cyrenian House acknowledges the considerable cultural diversity throughout Western Australia and the term Aboriginal is not intended to imply cultural homogeneity.