Cultural safety represents a key philosophical shift from providing a service regardless of difference to care that takes account of peoples’ unique needs. It requires all people to undertake an ongoing process of self-reflection and cultural self-awareness and an acknowledgement of how these impact on interactions and service delivery.
Cultural safety is central to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their relationships with the health system. Cultural safety describes a state, where people are enabled and feel they can access health care that suits their needs, are able to challenge personal or institutional racism levels (when they experience it), establish trust in services and expect effective, quality care.
Critically, cultural safety does not necessarily require the study of any culture other than one’s own: it is essentially about being open-minded and flexible in attitudes towards others. Identifying what makes others different is simple – however, understanding our own culture and its influence on how we think, feel and behave is much more complex, and often goes unquestioned.
So, if Cultural Safety describes the state we are aiming to reach – safe, accessible, person-oriented and informed care – Cultural Responsiveness is the practice to enable it.
Cultural responsiveness has cultural safety at its core. Cultural responsiveness is what is needed to transform systems; how individual health practitioners work to deliver and maintain culturally safe and effective care. It is innately transformative and must incorporate knowledge (knowing), self-knowledge and behaviour (being) and action (doing). It is about the approaches we take in engaging with people and how we act to embed what we learn in practice. This requires genuine dialogue to improve practice and health outcomes – it is how we achieve, maintain and govern cultural safety.
Responsibility to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive culturally safe and responsive care sits in many connected spheres: with education providers, service providers and organisations, and health professionals. Each must be capable of responding to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Systems, organisations and individuals are at different stages in their journeys to develop these capabilities. Cultural responsiveness places the onus onto the individual, organisation, and system to respond appropriately to the unique
attributes of the people, families and communities with whom they work.
We support the development of capabilities in cultural safety and responsiveness for all Australians, both non- Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. IAHA sees the development of high-level capabilities in cultural responsiveness as a lifelong cycle of reflection, learning and action as we base our relationships on dialogue, communication, power sharing and negotiation.
Our Theory of Change
The renewal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing needs to be driven by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. For decades, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations and medical services have led the way in developing innovative, robust and flexible service delivery models grounded in local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and practices based on contemporary primary health care models. These models demonstrate the critical importance of respectful community engagement, high levels of
community oversight and employment of a significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.
Australian health and education systems can learn much from these models. We believe there are four major requirements for systems change that require transformative action that will support the renewal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. They are:
For a more detail understanding of our framework please feel free to inquire here for a full copy of our revised framework in an easy to read PDF format. This PDF Framework will also provide details of the the Key Capabilities that we work through in our workshops as well as some practical examples of this framework plays out for the individual as well as the organisation.