AbCF acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work and live and pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging and celebrate the stories, culture and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of all Communities. AbCF acknowledges, respects and honours Indigenous peoples vital role in caring for country in the past and stress the importance of this continued practice into the future.
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers please be aware that content on this website may contain images, voices and or names of people who have passed away.


For Indigenous peoples of this country, the journey towards empowerment and self-determination often faces challenges tied to traditional ways of thinking. One such hurdle is the prevalent use of needs-based approaches, which often portray communities as mere recipients of external help rather than active creators of their own futures. Enter the Strengths-based Planning Tools – a guiding light on the road to self-determining progress for Indigenous communities. The Strengths-Based Planning Tools and associated training program aim to reshape the perception of communities. Instead of viewing them as problems to be solved through externally imposed projects, the focus shifts to inspiring confidence, pride, and celebration by recognizing and building upon existing strengths. The program encourages community leaders to redirect their focus from securing funds for externally determined ‘needs’ to nurturing internal capabilities and aspiration, reinforcing the importance of self-determination. Welcome to a journey that empowers communities to shape their own destiny.


The Strengths-Based Planning Tools act as a force of decolonisation, purposefully highlighting the Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. Instead of viewing communities through a lens of shortcomings, this approach celebrates the inherent skills, knowledge, talents, and resources already present. It acknowledges the richness of cultural diversity and aims to leverage these assets to fulfill community aspiration.

The need for such tools arises from a gap between the desire for a strengths-based approach and the absence of practical, user-friendly tools to make it happen. Often, well-intentioned efforts resort to mainstream processes that inadvertently foster dependence on external aid. The Strengths-Based Planning Tools step in as a culturally viable solution, promoting Indigenous self-determination by offering a way for communities to navigate their development on their own terms.

A Culturally Viable Solution.


The implementation of these tools not only facilitates a strength-oriented perspective but also propels the progression of Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty, fostering a more authentic and empowering path forward. The benefits are many and include the following.

  • This is a decolonising model that spotlights Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.
  • It focuses on the skills, knowledges, talents, and resources that already exist within communities and leverages these to meet community aspirations.
  • This provides practical and simple tools to enable a progressive, empowering pathway forward and circumvents the need to fall back on mainstream processes, such as needs assessments and problem trees.

These tools progress Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty. They empower communities to pursue and achieve their aspirations.

Progress Indigenous self-determination.


  • An understanding of the history of community development paradigms (world views).
  • An understanding of the negative impact of needs-based paradigms in neo-colonial and settler-colonial contexts.
  • An understanding of strength-based approaches as a paradigm and as a transformative process.
  • Knowing how strength-based approaches promote agency and self-determination.
  • Practical tools to map existing strengths, knowledges and resources to use in your work and life.
  • The ability to apply strategic thinking and planning and link assets and opportunities.
  • Familiarity with appreciative inquiry as a method focused on abundance and excitement.
  • Energy and excitement to test a new process that builds confidence, pride and celebration!

Map existing strengths and knowledge.


This new strengths-based approach provides the pathway forward from the previously wide-reaching needs-based approach, the impact of which was and is profound and far-reaching. The needs-based approach shaping communities in ways that could be detrimental to their holistic well-being. Adopting this paradigm conditions communities to perceive their lives and contexts primarily through the lens of problems, reducing their rich tapestry to a series of ‘projects’. The design and implementation of initiatives become the responsibility of external ‘experts’, fostering a dependency on outside stakeholders. This approach often overlooks or, even worse, disrupts existing strengths and resources within the community. Consequently, a climate of conflict and competition emerges, perpetuated by a relentless focus on highlighting problems and needs. Community leaders find themselves preoccupied with securing funds to address these perceived ‘needs’ as determined by external donors, diverting attention from more sustainable and empowering solutions. The insidious nature of this approach extends to the internalization of such messaging, influencing how communities perceive themselves and their capabilities. We celebrate and champion the new strengths-based approach and the benefits it brings to our mob.

We celebrate the benefits it brings to our mob.


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