Cultural safety is about creating an environment that is safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This means there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity and experience.

Cultural safety is about:

  • Shared respect, shared meaning and shared knowledge
  • The experience of learning together with dignity and truly listening
  • Strategic and institutional reform to remove barriers to the optimal health, wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal people. This includes addressing unconscious bias, racism and discrimination, and supporting Aboriginal self-determination
  • Individuals, organisations and systems ensuring their cultural values do not negatively impact on Aboriginal peoples, including addressing the potential for unconscious bias, racism and discrimination
  • Individuals, organisations and systems ensuring self-determination for Aboriginal people. This includes sharing power (decision-making and governance) and resources with Aboriginal communities. It's especially relevant for the design, delivery and evaluation of services for Aboriginal people.

Key elements of culturally safe workplaces and services 

Knowledge and respect for self: Awareness of how one's own cultural values, knowledge, skills and attitudes are formed and affect others, including a responsibility to address their unconscious bias, racism and discrimination.

Knowledge and respect for Aboriginal people: Knowledge of the diversity of Aboriginal peoples, communities and cultures, and the skills and attitudes to work effectively with them.

A commitment to redesigning organisations and systems to reduce racism and discrimination: Strategic and institutional reform to remove barriers to optimal health, wellbeing and safety outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Cultural safety is an ongoing learning journey: An ongoing and response learning framework that includes the need to unlearn unconscious bias and racism and relearn Aboriginal cultural values.

Why is cultural safety important?

Cultural safety is a fundamental human right. It's also a legislative requirement of public agencies to provide safety in the workplace.

The workplace environment, services and settings for health, wellbeing and safety must be culturally safe for all people.

For a fair and equitable society free from racism and discrimination, we must address the underlying causes of culturally unsafe practice.

Everyone's responsibility?

Everyone has a responsibility for the cultural safety of Aboriginal people in their organisation. Everyone is responsible for how they work with Aboriginal staff, health consumers and clients of community services.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural safety framework 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural safety framework has been developed to help mainstream Victorian health, human and community services and the department to create culturally safe environments, services and workplaces.

The framework provides a continuous quality improvement model to strengthen the cultural safety of individuals and organisations. 

It aims to help the department and mainstream health, human and community services to strengthen their cultural safety by participating in an ongoing learning journey. 

We would like to acknowledge the following people and groups for their contribution to the early conceptualisation of the framework:

  • Professor Gregory Phillips, CEO, ABSTARR Consulting
  • DHHS Aboriginal employment subcommittee
  • DHHS Aboriginal Staff Network
  • DHHS Pilot Groups. 

For a copy of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural safety framework, please email aboriginalstrategyandoversight@dhhs.vic.gov.au.