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Aboriginal Liaison Officers share experiences in training video

To train Aboriginal Liaison Officers, DSS created a video with stories from officers around the country.

Always remember that you’re there ... working for your community ... have the drive to face the frustrations that you’ll face in social security

Joe Flick, DSS, 1988
Attachment Size
i-remember-my-first-day-transcript .docx 77.77 KB
About the artefact

The Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO) program began after Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin in 1974. ALOs worked in remote communities to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access government payments and services.

This 1988 Department of Social Security (DSS) training video tells the stories of 4 ALOs working in their communities.


These excerpts show the experiences of 2 staff in different parts of Australia – Ollie Smith in Perth and Joe Flick in Darwin. They talk about their first days in the job and what they have learned since. The video shows the contrast between office-based work and ALOs working in regional and remote communities.

Photo of Ollie Smith speaking to the camera as part of a DSS video.
Ollie Smith, ALO in Perth

Flick and Smith talk about things they have found difficult in their role as ALOs. They discuss their unease about the lack of Aboriginal staff within DSS and talk about dealing with prejudice from their DSS colleagues.

Flick recalled that some DSS staff questioned the need for ALOs. They thought it meant they weren't treating all customers equally. However, Flick argued that communities needed ALOs because otherwise Aboriginal people missed out on the services they were eligible for.

The video explores the unique position ALOs found themselves in. Flick and Smith reflect that they were sometimes ‘working both sides of the fence’, trying to meet both community needs and DSS requirements.

Photo of Joe Flick talking to the camera as part of a DSS video.
Joe Flick, ALO in Darwin

The excerpt closes with Flick and Smith giving advice to new ALOs. They emphasise how important it is to build contacts with communities as well as with other ALOs and staff. Their responses show the importance and challenges of the ALO role.

This video was part of a range of materials DSS made to educate staff. Another video they made was Cultural crossroads, which was for all DSS staff and aimed to improve staff awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers’ needs.

Map of Australia with Perth, Darwin, Cairns and Melbourne highlighted. These places are where the 4 DSS ALOs in the video are based.
Map showing locations of the 4 ALOs from the full video
Source details

This video has been edited to only include people who could give permissions. The original video recording of I remember my first day ... is held on VHS in the Department of Social Services Library.


Permissions to reproduce these excerpts were granted by Joe Flick and Ollie Smith.


Department of Social Security (1988) I remember my first day ... [video], Department of Social Security Corporate Television Unit, Canberra.