Many allied health university curricula integrate information about working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some degrees also ensure students have ‘cultural awareness training’ prior to going on placement. However, student supervisors and clinical educators report that students often have insufficient understanding of health issues and culture before they start a placement.
Students can also feel under-prepared for these placements. In the report, 'I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now', students reflect on their clinical education experiences in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander settings, and suggest ways that the universities could more adequately prepare them for placement. The report also provides some simple and practical suggestions for students preparing for clinical placement in this type of setting.
Some questions supervisors and students could consider when determing their learning/professional development needs include:
- Do you have a 'cultural mentor'?
- Do you belong to any associations or networks such Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA)?
- Do you participate in the Yarning Places on the Indigenous Health InfoNet, or profession-specific networks or list serves such as the Speech Pathology Paediatric Indigenous Network?
Think about which of these strategies might be appropriate or useful for you to encourage students to participate in.
Content on this page includes:
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Developing Cultural Responsiveness
In 2019, Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), revised their Cultural Responsiveness in Action Framework. This evidence-based framework was developed in response to the need for practical strategies to strengthen the capabilities of individuals and agencies tasked with the responsibility of providing culturally safe and responsive care and services that meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To ensure that care and services are effectively aligned to this framework, IAHA released the Culturally Responsiveness Program.
This program is focused on action-orientated and strength-based outcomes and is delivered via online and blended modalities. This program is a transformational process for students, supervisors and executives who can use this training to identify practical strategies for embedding cultural responsiveness into their roles, organisation structures, and to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, staff and clients. Additionally, it can be used as a resource to support students and staff to prepare for placement working in settings with First Peoples to ensure culturally safe working environments.
IAHA Cultural Responsiveness Training is an interactive course delivered in online and blended learning stages:
- Level 1. Cultural Awareness Foundational course
- Level 2. Unpacking the Framework
- Level 3. Turning it all into Action - Live online workshop to bring it all together.
Enrol anytime into this self-paced online program.
Developing Cultural Awareness
We all interpret situations through our own ‘cultural lens’. We can find it difficult to understand and respect cultures that are not familiar or that appear to reflect different beliefs to our own. We need to recognise our own underlying values and assumptions before we can apply an ‘Indigenous lens’ (Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation and Women's Health Goulburn North East, 2008). Family, kinship, community, connections to the land and spirituality are fundamental and complex realities for most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2012). However, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture’ is not homogenous. Urban communities and remote communities are different. Each community and each language group is different.
In this video, the significance of understanding the individual context of each person is explored.
It might be useful to ask your students to reflect on their own upbringing and values, and how these might impact on their involvement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. For example, you could encourage students to produce their own version of ‘My Story’ in which they reflect upon the following aspects of their life:
- Educational opportunities
- Family situation
- Cultural practices
- Assumptions about First Peoples
- How do I feel about the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? Why?
- How might this impact on my practice as a health care provider?
In this video, the use of the 'My Story' reflection tool is explained. And, this example student’s ‘My Story’ shows how effective this reflection process can be.
Cultural awareness training resources
- Australia's First Peoples Cultural Awareness Portal - Griffith Health
- Cultural safety for health professionals portal
- Remote Area Health corps eLearning modules on working with remote indigenous communities
- 3RUDRH (CSU) - cultural awareness education
References: Developing Cultural Awareness
Please Note: References remain valid until superseded by later research. The resources referenced here are regularly reviewed and are considered current and relevant to the topics presented.
- Coffin, J., Drysdale, M., Hermeston, W., Sherwood, J and Edwards, T. (2008). Ways forward in Indigenous health. In S. Liaw & S. Kilpatrick (Eds.) A textbook of Australian rural health. (pp.141-150). Canberra, Australian Rural Health Education Network.
- Downing, R, Kowal, E., & Paradies, A. (2011). Indigenous cultural training for health workers in Australia. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 23(3), 247–257. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzr008
- Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation and Women's Health Goulburn North East. (2008) Using a health promotion framework with an ‘Aboriginal lens'. Part of Making two worlds work: building the capacity of the health and community sector to work effectively and respectfully with our Aboriginal community.
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (2012). An introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health cultural protocols and perspectives. Melbourne.
- Scrimgeour, M. & Scrimgeour, D. (2007). Health Care Access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Living in Urban Areas, and Related Research Issues: A Review of the Literature. Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, Darwin.