21st March 2019

Closing the ‘Cultural Voice’​ Gap in Australian Healthcare Governance

By DrMJLock

Cultural Voice – the human cultural perspectives of Australia’s First Peoples.

  • On Close the Gap Day, 21st March 2019, I launched Australian Cultural Safety & Security News – dedicated to the critique of cultural safety and cultural security in Australian social policy.
  • A key message I promote is the moral obligation for governance writers to deconstruct knowledge governance practices that have historically disregarded the cultural voice of Australia’s First Peoples.
  • The intellectual development of Australian healthcare governance systematically excludes the human cultural perspectives of Australia’s First Peoples – their cultural voice.


The phrase ‘cultural voice’ denotes the human cultural values of Australia’s First Peoples. Cultural voice demarcates intellectual space in Australian health policy analysis so that “human” culture becomes visible in a policy textscape crowded with the use of the term ‘culture’ but devoid of any sense of humanity.

The intellectual history of Australian healthcare governance writing excludes the cultural voices of Australia’s First Peoples. For example, in Meredith Edward’s (2002) discussion of Australian public sector governance, in Donald Philippon and Jeffrey Braithwaite’s (2008) comparative review of Australian and Canadian systems of healthcare governance, in Lynne Bennington’s (2010) Australian review of corporate governance and healthcare literature, and in Barbazza and Tello’s (2014) international review of health governance which referenced Braithwaite, Healy and Dwan’s (2005) Australian discussion paper about the governance of health safety and quality. None of this literature – spanning almost 20 years – references Australia’s First Peoples cultural values of governance.

Institutional Cultural Blindness to Cultural Voice

This represents an institutional cultural blindness where there is no ‘human culture’ explicitly considered in healthcare governance, in a multicultural country, whose First Australians have suffered most in the evolution of healthcare. For the first time, a Ngiyampaa-citizen (Mark Lock) states:

I plant a flag in the moon of Australian healthcare governance and declare “this ground includes the cultural voice of Australia’s First Peoples.”

The phenomenon that I discovered while reading healthcare governance literature – the systematic exclusion of cultural voice – reminded my of the power-knowledge-discourse triad noted by Foucault where those with the power to control knowledge set the rules of the discourse.

I found it amazing that prominent and distinguished Australian authors would completely disregard the humanity of Australia’s First Peoples as shown in the Reconciliation Bridge Walk (2000), the Palm Island riot (2004), the Intervention (2007), The Sorry Statement (2008), Closing the Gap (2008), not to mention the slew of significant cultural events – Mabo Day, NAIDOC week, and National Reconciliation Week.

Therefore, the rules of discourse created by healthcare governance academics are these: disregard humanity, silence cultural voice, and exclude Australia’s First Peoples.

The Great Australian Silence in Healthcare Governance

The intellectual leaders in Australian healthcare governance have created a cultural norm synchronous with ‘the great Australian silence’ where W.E.H. Stanner (1968) noted the ‘cult of forgetfulness practiced on a national scale’ about the violent and racist history of the Australian State towards First Nations peoples. Sure, reading bland governance documents is nothing compared to the history of massacres and oppression, but it is fascinating to detect a white-washed sheen in the official publications sanctioned by organisations governed by mostly non-Aboriginal anglo-celtic males (Australian Human Rights Commission 2018).

Therefore, I argue that there is a moral obligation for governance writers to deconstruct knowledge governance practices that have historically disregarded the cultural voice of Australia’s First Peoples. #culturalgovernance

This is an edited version of the article: Lock, M.J. (2019), #CulturalVoice – the human cultural perspectives of Australia’s First Peoples. Australian Cultural Safety & Security News 1(1):12. Licensed under CC BY-SA by Dr Mark J Lock. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.13015.73123. Available at: https://committix.com/projects/australian-cultural-safety-security-news/