And governments and other third parties need to ensure that our group cohesion does not become collateral damage when they engage with our communities. Farrelly and Lumby note how this model extends cultural competency well beyond simple cultural awareness into behavioural, attitudinal and structural change: Cultural Security is built from the acknowledgement that theoretical ‘awareness’ of culturally appropriate service provision is not enough.
The concept of cultural safety is drawn from the work of Maori nurses in New Zealand and can be defined as: [A]n environment that is safe for people: where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. ‘If it’s free from politics it would be safe but it’s just going to get sucked into the same politics... It shifts the emphasis from attitudes to behaviour, focusing directly on practice, skills and efficacy.
It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning, living and working together with dignity and truly listening. ‘I don’t feel as comfortable as I think a white person feels’ (Koorie worker). It is about incorporating cultural values into the design, delivery and evaluation of services.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a culturally safe environment is one where we feel safe and secure in our identity, culture and community. ‘I felt outcast and alone in all white environments’. Cultural Security recognises that this is not an optional strategy, nor solely the responsibility of individuals, but rather involves society and system levels of involvement.
In the absence of formal research and evaluation, these sorts of case studies provide the best available way to look at what is working and why, providing valuable lessons that can be relevant to other communities and contexts.