Young aboriginal child

Identity refers to a sense of attachment, or connecting to and finding comfort in particular individual and collective characteristics.

Identity characteristics are both assumed by and ascribed to individuals and groups, but at times self-identification (assumed identity) is at odds with the dominant views (ascribed or given to) of that person or group. Assumed identity makes for a sense of belonging with those perceived to share characteristics and for the ‘othering’ of those seen as not belonging. Identity is a multi-faceted collection of personal characteristics that will change and reform over time because of altered conditions associated with existence, age stages, significant events, education and experience.

The greatest gift any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander parent can give to their child is the gift of identity (Huggins 2001, p. 44).

This has been largely due to the resilience, family and community orientation—the cultural values—of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies. Other factors, such as connection to land, language, humour and identity, have also influenced the continuity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures that have persisted to the present and will continue to provide future generations with strength, dignity and purpose.

In general, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples distinguish themselves from other Australians and are linked together by a sense of belonging to a locality and to an extended family, wherever they are. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander spouses and, particularly in urban Australia, live in situations where they are embedded in non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander society.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in urban and rural areas have developed a culture of their own through family, community and organisational structures. These structures give psychological and physical support and provide a sense of security.

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Huggins, J 2001, ‘The gift of identity’, ATSIC News, February, p.44. Retrieved 23 August 2016, < indigenous_read002_0708.pdf>