Indigenous cultural competency: Exploring the barriers for health and social care academics

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The importance of educating culturally capable health and social care practitioners must not be underestimated and should be perceived as a core responsibility for all educators whether in academic institutions or in clinical practice. Avoiding or sidelining this responsibility risks the perpetuation of culturally unsafe practice in health and social care, and continuing cultural exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Pitama et al (2018) identified a range of actors and events that work to disrupt or support the implementation of an Indigenous health curriculum. These include external influences driving the curriculum, limited leadership capacity, hidden curricula, and insufficient institutional investment to support a comprehensive curriculum and the appropriate development of faculty staff. Workforce development and training is one of six domains that underpin culturally respectful health service delivery and is the focus of the work presented here.
This paper presents the preliminary outcomes of a cross-sectional survey of 101 health and social care academics representing 15 disciplines at Charles Sturt University (CSU), NSW. The purpose of this online survey was to gain insight into academics’ knowledge of and experiences with Indigenous cultural competency, in order to identify the need for continuing support and professional development. The survey was developed by an interdisciplinary team in consultation with the Gulaay Indigenous Australian Curriculum and Resources team and reviewed by a reference group which included Wiradyuri Elders. Anonymous data was collected relevant to four headings: CSU context; personal cultural competence; professional development; and demographic information.
Participants who completed the survey represent a range of academic experience, from ‘currently on probation’ to ‘more than 20 years’. 61 of the academics (61%) indicated that they were at the stage of ‘cultural sensitivity’ as compared to 21 who considered that they were at a level of ‘cultural competence’ (21%). 83 of the participants (83%) reported being capable or highly capable in evaluating their own cultural values and world view. The barriers which this group of academics had experienced in progressing their own cultural competency journey include: self-limitations; developing intercultural relationships; institutional factors including racism and discrimination; cultural privilege and the ignorance of others; and workplace cultures.
This survey explored a range of topics in regard to Indigenous cultural competency journeys. It is important to illuminate the barriers that health and social care academics experience, as this knowledge provides a foundation to inform professional development planning at CSU. If academics are not well-supported to develop their own cultural capabilities, their efforts to progress cultural competency journeys for their students, communities and workplaces will be compromised. The outcomes of this pilot survey will inform a larger study across CSU which aligns well with a whole of university approach. The development of academics’ cultural capabilities is foundational to enabling the timely implementation of CSU’s Indigenous Australian Content in the Curriculum (IACC) policy and, more broadly, assisting the institution in addressing the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities and the Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017–20.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2020
Event7th Rural and Remote Heath Scientific Symposium - Alice Springs Convention Centre, Alice Springs, Australia
Duration: 25 May 202026 May 2020


Conference7th Rural and Remote Heath Scientific Symposium
Abbreviated titleShaping the future
CityAlice Springs
OtherDue to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Symposium will now be held in two parts: a virtual pre-Symposium session in May 2020, and, all being well, the face-to-face event in Alice Springs 24-25 May 2021.
Internet address


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