The Evidence Portal

Workforce development

Critical Element

Culturally safe service delivery is dependent upon a highly skilled and capable workforce (Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2016). For practitioners working in child protection and early intervention, this requires both clinical and/or skill-based competence, as well as cultural competence (Menzies & Grace, 2020). The literature indicates that this can be achieved through two key strategies:

  • Recruiting, training and supporting more Aboriginal workers in the sector (see for example Bessarab & Crawford, 2010); and
  • Providing education and training to non-Aboriginal workers so that they learn the history of Aboriginal people’s experiences with the welfare system; develop high levels of cultural awareness and appreciation; and know how to deliver culturally safe and effective services (Davis, 2019).

The literature provides some guidance on how to improve the effectiveness of education and training for non-Aboriginal workers. The importance of including information about Aboriginal trauma and how to deliver trauma-informed practice in training programs related to cultural safety is asserted by Menzies and Grace (2020).

Another key element of the training and education for non-Aboriginal practitioners involves reflection and transformation. Cultural safety requires practitioners to critically reflect on how they support and provide services to Aboriginal children, families and communities, and how their actions are impacted by their own beliefs and values. A major aim of this process of self-reflection is for practitioners to identify attitudes they may hold that may impact negatively on the services they provide; and to seek to change these attitudes.  This must be supported by managers who can draw on practitioner knowledge to develop policies and procedures which ensure that the organisation provides a culturally safe and respectful environment for Aboriginal staff and clients.

Finally, an article by Menzies and Grace (2020) that reports findings from the evaluation of a training program designed for welfare practitioners asserts the importance of reviewing the training on offer for non-Aboriginal workers. Cultural competency training programs that fail to highlight historical, social and structural inequalities within Australian society have been described as superficial (Menzies & Grace, 2020) and fail to address the needs of welfare practitioners. Effective training programs do not shy away from this context; assert the importance of trauma-informed theory and practice; are rigorously evaluated; and are provided on an ongoing basis (Menzies & Grace, 2020). 

Implementation activities include:

  • Recruit Aboriginal staff and volunteers and actively support them through ongoing training, mentoring and career progression strategies.
  • Provide all staff with ongoing cultural safety training and reflection opportunities to provide them with the skills and knowledge required to engage safely and competently with Aboriginal children, families and communities.
Last updated:

25 Mar 2022

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