Workplace relations

Guidelines for the use of terminology relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Staff and students should be aware of the appropriate terminology when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in University documents, policies and various forms of media.

The below guidelines aim to ensure that terminology used within the University recognises and respects the diverse cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and eliminates the use of inappropriate or offensive terms.

These guidelines should only be used as a guide. When referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, preference should always be given to the views of particular groups or individuals, and the specific terms that they use should be respected and adopted. This is particularly important when recognising specific and tribal clan boundaries.

Use of Collective Terms

As a result of consultation and consideration, the University's declared preference is for 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' people/community/communities to be used when referring collectively to Australia's original inhabitants. This refers to both Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Note that it can be appropriate to use the terms 'Aboriginal' and 'Torres Strait Islander' separately but only when the particular cohort is being referred to separate from the other. 'Aboriginal' or 'Islander' should never be used as an abbreviation for 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander'.

The use of the term 'peoples' as opposed to 'people' is preferred on the basis that it recognises the distinctive identities, status and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. However, the more general term 'people' can be used in contexts such as "more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are considering enrolling at Western Sydney University".

The acronym ATSI should not be used as a stand-alone alternative to, or short form of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, in any document, speech or presentation as this is deemed to be offensive both culturally and socially. It may be used in a limited way in abbreviations of particular organisations or groups such as in AIATSIS (for Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) or OATSIEE (for Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment and Engagement).

The presentation of data in tables and charts should use a legend if needed rather than this acronym.

The terms 'Aborigine' and 'Aboriginal' when used as a noun, are regarded as being demeaning and should not be used in any context. The word 'Aboriginal' can be used as an adjective as in 'an Aboriginal leader'.

Use of 'Indigenous' and 'First Peoples'

The term 'Indigenous,' despite its fairly widespread use, tends to have the sense of a broader concept as conveyed in the term 'indigenous peoples' and as such its use can be regarded as diminishing the unique identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Hence the University's preferred position as stated above is to use the term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in most contexts.

The term 'Indigenous' can be suitable in some contexts and if used should always be capitalised and desirably use the form, 'Indigenous Australian'. Generally the use should be confined to situations where space limitations, such as tables and web menus, preclude the use of the term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

In circumstances where 'Indigenous' is used, such as in a web menu, the text on the web pages should revert to the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

The term 'Indigenous' is also often used to refer to the collective indigenous peoples of the world and is appropriate in those contexts.

The term 'First Peoples' is also used widely and is acceptable as an alternative to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples where it is necessary to use a shorter wording. The term was utilised in the NSW Parliament's recognition statement and may be preferred by particular groups or individuals. Like 'Indigenous', the term 'First Peoples' also has broader use and meaning beyond Australia.

Neither term should be used to denote the position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

Self-identifying Terms

Aboriginal people in NSW and our region, Greater Western Sydney (GWS), have terms by which they may identify themselves. These terms are directly derived from the languages and names used by Aboriginal people in specific areas when referring to themselves.

With regard to GWS, the University acknowledges the tribal groups Darug, Tharawal (also historically referred to as Dharawal), Gandangarra  and Wiradjuri.

Use of these terms with respect to individuals or groups should only be done with the express permission of the Elders or representatives of the tribes or groups involved.

Other Issues

Always ensure that use of the term 'Australian' does not inadvertently exclude Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So the phrase:

"The median age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 21 years compared to the median age of Australians at 37 years"

should be corrected to:

"The median age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 21 years compared to the median age of Australians of other descent at 37 years."

The correct acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is integral to the principles and intent of Reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other national and international instruments of note. The University appreciates your support in ensuring that the correct acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia is respected and upheld.