Capability Framework: Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander English as an Additional Language/Dialect Learners


There are approximately 67 000 Aboriginal students in NSW government schools. Many (but not all) of these students use Aboriginal English, or some other form of non-standard English, as their main home dialect.

Aboriginal English is just one name given to dialects of English spoken by many Aboriginal people across Australia. It varies from other dialects of English by way of distinct linguistic features and cultural usage. Teachers need to be aware that for many Aboriginal students, Standard Australian English is not the main home dialect of English that the students use.

The Capability Framework: Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander English as an Additional Language or Dialect Learners has been developed in collaboration with the NT, WA, Queensland and South Australian departments of education.

It was developed to align with and support the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APSTs) and can be used by:

  • Teachers to inform practice, self-assess their capabilities and inform professional learning goals including the Performance and Development Plan (PDP).
  • Principals to inform whole school practices and determine staff professional learning needs.
  • States and Territories to plan and deliver professional learning opportunities.
Timeframe for use:

This resource can be accessed and utilised by all staff at any time.

Intended audience:

This resource is applicable to all teachers working in remote, regional and urban contexts across Australia.

Instructions for use:

The Capability Framework can be used independently or alongside the APSTs.

The Framework has 7 capabilities which are related to the Teaching Standards. The capabilities provide additional information for the effective teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EALD learners.

Use of the Capability Framework is voluntary.

Evidence base:

Developed by a panel of experts from across Australia, the Framework spells out what teachers need to know and be able to do in their practice to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EAL/D Learners have the maximum opportunity to become proficient in Standard Australian English and to reach their academic potential.

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs:
Aboriginal Education Policy:
The department will provide Aboriginal cultural education for all staff and education about Aboriginal Australia for all students, as it is everybody’s business. The strength, diversity, ownership and richness of Aboriginal cultures and Custodianship of Country are respected, valued and promoted. The department is committed to collaborative decision making with Aboriginal Peoples, parents, caregivers, families and their communities.

Alignment to School Excellence Framework:
Learning Domain – Wellbeing, Learning Domain – Curriculum, Learning – Reporting Teaching Domain – Effective classroom Practice, Teaching Domain – Professional Standards, Teaching Domain – Learning and Development, Leading Domain – Educational Leadership.

Consulted with:
Implementation of the Capability Framework is a collaboration between Aboriginal Education and Communities and the Connected Communities directorate.

Reviewed by:
Aboriginal Education and Communities Directorate in collaboration with the Connected Communities Directorate.

Created/last updated:
December 2023.

Anticipated resource review date:
This resource will be reviewed in December 2024. To ensure ongoing improvement of this resource, feedback on this resource can be provided via the survey or QR code below.

Universal Resources - Aboriginal Education feedback survey QR code Universal Resources - Aboriginal Education feedback survey QR code

Resource Link

To access the Capability Framework: Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EAL/D Learners resource, please visit: Frameworks and tools.


  • DoE

Business Unit:

  • Aboriginal Education and Communities
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