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Celebrity presents DSS training video

Cultural awareness and sensitivity became a priority for DSS. The department created a training video featuring an Aboriginal celebrity to encourage all staff to improve services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers.

It is the responsibility of everyone working for the DSS to make sure that all Australians, including Aborigines and Islanders, receive their proper entitlements.

Ernie Dingo in DSS training video, 1988
Attachment Size
cultural-crossroads-plaintext.docx 46.38 KB
About the artefact

This training video taught Department of Social Security (DSS) staff about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. It encouraged staff to increase cultural awareness and improve services.


TV personality and Yamatji man Ernie Dingo presents the video. In these excerpts, Dingo tells staff that it’s important to develop cultural awareness to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers. He teaches staff about things like tone of voice, eye contact, name sharing and spelling, and death and funerals.

Footage of Queensland and the Torres Strait as well as inside DSS offices helped put the information in context.

Photo of Ernie Dingo in a DSS office speaking to the camera as part of cultural learning video. The caption reads 'name sharing'.
Ernie Dingo talking about name sharing

Dingo says ‘it is the responsibility of everyone working for the DSS to make sure that all Australians, including Aborigines and Islanders, receive their proper entitlements’.

Not shown in these excerpts is Dingo giving a short history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He talks about how hard it was to access government payments and how recent progress has led to change. He stresses that ‘Aboriginal and Islander people are now doing it for themselves’.

The video is an example of DSS trying to better engage staff in cultural awareness. Moira Bligh, who was a DSS project officer for Cultural crossroads, remembered:

The video was created and delivered at a time when Indigenous staffing levels were very low and servicing Indigenous clients in urban, regional and remote areas was fraught with issues. (Bligh, personal communication, 17 October 2022)

Role play scenarios with DSS staff towards the end of the video showed how to put this cultural awareness into practice.

Video still of a DSS staff member talking to an Aboriginal customer over a counter in an office. This part of the video is a scenario demonstrating use of eye contact.
Role play scenario from Cultural crossroads 

As well using a TV personality, DSS used music in other parts of the video to add interest. The full video opened with digeridoo music by Gondwanaland musician Charlie McMahon. During the video ‘The dead heart’ by Midnight Oil played, and the song ‘Blackfella/Whitefella’ by Warumpi Band played over the credits.

Source details

The original video package was planned and developed by the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit of DSS. This excerpt has been edited to only show people who could give permission. The full video on VHS is held in the Department of Social Services Library.


Permissions to reproduce excerpts from this video were granted by Ernie Dingo and Moira Bligh.


Department of Social Security (1988) Cultural crossroads: a guide for DSS staff in contact with Indigenous people [video], Department of Social Security, Canberra.