Australian cultural training needs standardization and accreditation

Unregulated Cultural Safety Training

A 2019 article by Stephane Shepherd, ‘Cultural awareness workshops: limitations and practical consequences’, revealed many flaws with cultural training programs that include them being ‘over-generalizing, simplistic and impractical’. While I disagree with many points in the article, it did cause me to reflect on the increase of cultural safety training courses. I searched the internet for “cultural safety training” to receive 26,700 results worldwide of which 458 results were Australian. Researching further, I realised that cultural training is unstandardised and unregulated, with very limited transparency and accountability about the cultural training industry. Why is that a problem?

Disempowers Aboriginal-patients-citizens

One of the central precepts of cultural safety is that the patient determines if the experience with the clinician is culturally safe. I advocate that it means the patient questioning the professional’s cultural competence. However, it appears as though all cultural training is directed to increasing the knowledge of the professional through a cottage industry of cultural trainers charging expensive fees to organisations for staff training programs, seminars, and workshops.

For example, as an Ngiyampaa-citizen, I cannot access the contents of cultural training programs to assess what the trainers are saying about me, without me. That is, the knowledge paid for by organisations is not shared with the citizen, open to my scrutiny or questioning, or – as far as I can tell – developed by considering my cultural history. Instead, I would have to be a staff member to have access to cultural training materials and curricula. As a result, the professionals gain more power – does that sound culturally safe for the patient?

The development of cultural training programs should include Aboriginal citizens and be accountable to Aboriginal communities for the cultural validity of curricula.

MJ Lock

Sells Unregulated Cultural Knowledge

One of the criticisms of governments and healthcare organisations is limited engagement with Aboriginal people in decision making processes. It is therefore incumbent on cultural training professionals to demonstrate that principle in their training development process. Otherwise, where is the cultural legitimacy of that training? Why should healthcare organisations engage more with Aboriginal citizens when cultural training programs exclude them?

While I took Stephane Shepherd’s article to be demeaning to the incredible talents of cultural trainers in Australia, it did bring to my attention the need for the cultural training industry to be regulated, and to include Aboriginal citizen engagement into every aspect of the development of training standards. This is important because the global cross-cultural training industry is predicted to grow 15% by 2021 (Technavio 2017) which means more cultural training programs developed to meet demand.

One of the demand drivers is the increase in cultural safety in Australia by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA 2018) which would see 16 Australian health professions required to develop cultural safety requirements for each profession. It is ironic that our highly regulated and accredited professionals would receive cultural knowledge through unregulated and unaccredited cultural training programs. As a citizen, I trust my health professional to have high-quality training and that trust comes from the knowledge that their training and their profession is regulated and accredited – surely cultural training providers should be held to similar standards?

Time to Regulate Cultural Safety Training

It is time for the cultural training industry to come under regulation, standardisation, benchmarking, and accreditation. It needs to have the highest standards with regard to Aboriginal citizen engagement so that health professionals can be confident of the cultural legitimacy of the training. It needs to be transparent and accountable to citizens about what cultural knowledge and intellectual property is being sold to mainstream organisations. And the bottom line is that Aboriginal citizens need to be empowered by the cultural training industry through actively engaging with citizens that they sell knowledge about.


Attribution: Lock, M.J. (29 May 2019), . The need for cultural training standardization and accreditation. [LinkedIn Post]. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/australian-cultural-training-needs-standardization-dr-mark-j-lock-

Adapted from the article: Lock, M.J. (2019), Australian ‘cultural’ training – disempowering Aboriginal citizens? Australian Cultural Safety & Security News 1(1):4. Licensed under CC BY-SA by Dr Mark J Lock. 10.13140/RG.2.2.18048.89602

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