” Supporting the health care system to be culturally safe for Indigenous people is one of our top priorities.
All our programs and initiatives work toward inclusive health services and a health care system respectful of Indigenous people in Northern British Columbia Canada “
” Cultural safety refers to the accumulation and application of knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, principles and norms.1
It is about overcoming the cultural power imbalances of places, people and policies to contribute to improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and increasing numbers within, and support for, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce “
Download the AIDA Cultural Safety Factsheet HERE
Download Other Australian Position papers
Cultural humility is a lifelong journey of self-reflection and learning. It involves listening without judgement and being open to learning from and about others. It involves learning about our own culture and our biases. Cultural humility is a building block for cultural safety. It is an overarching principle that is threaded through our learning and acts as the process by which change can occur.
The journey of cultural humility often starts with cultural awareness – recognizing that differences and similarities exist between cultures. Learning about the histories that impact Indigenous peoples in Canada is an important part of developing cultural awareness.
Cultural sensitivity grows when we start to see the influences of our own culture and acknowledge that we have biases. This can be an eye-opening experience, and it may take courage and humility to walk this path. Cultural sensitivity is NOT about treating everyone the same.
With cultural awareness and sensitivity comes a responsibility to act respectfully.
We can increase our cultural competence by developing knowledge, skills and attitudes for working effectively and respectfully with diverse people. It’s about reducing the number of assumptions we make about people based on our biases. Cultural competency does not require us to become experts in cultures different from our own.
The goal of cultural safety is for all people to feel respected and safe when they interact with the health care system. Culturally safe health care services are free of racism and discrimination. People are supported to draw strengths from their identity, culture and community.
Background Australia AIDA Cultural Safety Factsheet
This Cultural Safety Factsheet outlines some practical and achievable actions that can be implemented to strengthen cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This Factsheet complements the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA)
Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Doctors, Medical Students and Patients position paper available at http://www.aida.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Cultural_Safety.pdf.
This paper provides guidance and outlines the parameters for AIDA in our work to advocate for a health system that is culturally safe, high quality, reflective of needs and respects and incorporates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural values.
What is Cultural Safety?
Cultural safety refers to the accumulation and application of knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, principles and norms.1
It is about overcoming the cultural power imbalances of places, people and policies to contribute to improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and increasing numbers within, and support for, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce.1
As outlined in our Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Doctors, Medical Students and Patients position paper,1 AIDA views cultural safety on a continuum of care with cultural awareness being the first step in the learning process and cultural safety being the final outcome.
This is a dynamic and multi-dimensional process where an individual’s place in the continuum of care can change depending on the setting.
For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services, hospitals or communities.1
1 Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, 2013, Position Paper Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Doctors, Medical Students and Patients, AIDA, Canberra.
Why is Cultural Safety important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a disproportionate burden of illness and social disadvantage when compared with non-Indigenous Australians.
Additionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience much higher levels of racism and discrimination.
AIDA recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as a source of strength, resilience, happiness, identity and confidence, which has a positive impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
To improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, health service provision needs to be responsive to cultural differences and the impacts of conscious and unconscious racism.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to access and will experience better outcomes from services that are respectful and culturally safe places.
Likewise, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors are more likely to stay and thrive in learning and working environments that consistently demonstrate cultural safety.1 Cultural Safety Factsheet Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association
How can Cultural Safety be strengthened?
Some practical and achievable measures can be implemented to strengthen cultural safety. This includes but is not limited to:
- prominent displays of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork;
- prominent displays of posters specifically aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including promotion of health messages;
- asking patients if they identify as being an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person in a respectful manner;
- providing an explanation to patients about why the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of patients is being collected and how this information will inform better health care;
- collecting data on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status of new and existing patients (with the permission of patients);
- organising and participating in events that celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, such as NAIDOC and Reconciliation Australia events;
- practising Welcome to Country for official events;
- practising Acknowledgement of Country;
- displaying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in prominent positions;
- using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the naming of health services, buildings and programs;
- developing partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities and organisations;
- becoming a member of relevant peak Indigenous organisations;
- having appropriate support structures in place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
- including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on governance bodies;
- providing cultural safety training for all staff;
- developing and implementing a Reconciliation Action Plan;
- developing and implementing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy to promote an increase in the number of Indigenous employees; and championing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
How does AIDA contribute to strengthening Cultural Safety?
Cultural safety is an overarching theme of AIDA’s Values and Code of Conduct and is a key principle in all of AIDA’s Collaboration Agreements.
The aim is to contribute to improved health and life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people through growing the Indigenous medical workforce.
Much of our work is aimed at promoting culturally safe learning environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, doctors and service delivery to patients. Examples of our work in this area includes:
- development and implementation of the AIDA Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Doctors, Medical Students and Patients position paper;1
- participation in the development and implementation of a culturally inclusive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health curriculum, known as the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework, available at
Download the VACCHO Cultural Safety Enrolment Form
What is cultural safety?
Cultural safety is about providing quality health care that fits within the familiar cultural values and norms of the person accessing the service that may differ from your own and/or the dominant culture.
How is cultural safety different to cultural awareness?
Cultural awareness focuses on raising individuals knowledge about cultural experiences that are different from their own. Cultural awareness training maintains an ‘other’ rather than clear self-focus for participants. Cultural awareness also tends to have an individual rather than systemic focus.
VACCHO’s cultural safety training encompasses some of the information that is often included in cultural awareness training. We do, however, build on cultural awareness training and provide practical tips and skills that can be utilised to improve practice and behaviour, which assist in making Aboriginal peoples feel safe. In shifting the focus to health systems, our participants begin to learn how to strengthen relationships with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations so that access is improved.
What cultural safety training does VACCHO offer?
We currently offer four training options:
- Cultural supervision
- Standard option – An Introduction to Cultural Safety in Aboriginal Health
- Tailored option – Cultural Safety in Aboriginal Health: Develop your Practice, Knowledge and Skills
- Victorian Public Sector and Services – Aboriginal Health Cultural Safety
How was VACCHO’s cultural safety training developed?
Our cultural safety training was developed in accordance with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHOs) Cultural Safety Training Standards.
During the design of our training, we consulted and collaborated with various key stakeholders, including:
- the Victorian Aboriginal community
- our Member organisations
- mainstream health organisations
- the Victorian Public Sector and Services
We asked Aboriginal people “what would you like non-Aboriginal people to know about you?” We also asked non-Aboriginal people “what information would help you work more effectively with Aboriginal people?”
We then trialed and tested our training with the Victorian Aboriginal community, including Elders, employees at VACCHO and our member organisations, health workers and other key stakeholders.
In June 2012, we began to deliver our training. Since then, we have delivered our training to more than 1,250 people across Victoria. We’re excited to think of the implications the completion of our training will have in program and policy design and the delivery of culturally safe services to Aboriginal people and communities.
How is VACCHO’s cultural safety training delivered?
VACCHO’s cultural safety training is delivered in three stages:
Pre-training: during this stage, we will create and send a unique, online Pre-Workshop Self-Reflection Activity for all participants to complete. This assists us in ascertaining the knowledge that already exists within the room and gives participants the opportunity to note any existing questions they would like addressed in our training.
Training: during this stage, we will deliver our interactive training and provide each participant with relevant materials (including a training pack and our 60 page learner resource guide). At the end of the training, each participant will complete an evaluation.
Post-training: during this stage, we will provide each participant who successfully completes our training with a certificate of participation. Where we deliver to a group, we will also provide the booking agency with an evaluation summary for future reference and recommendations (this summary is the collated responses of each individual evaluation).
For more information, or to make a booking, please contact our Cultural Safety Team or on 03 9411 9411.