Cultural Safety with Australia’s First Peoples

Improving cultural safety through healthcare governance

This initiative of Committix Pty Ltd aims to discuss the significance of cultural safety for Australian healthcare governance. Join this group for discussion and news at Facebook – Cultural Safety & Security. The header image mash-up for the FB group shows the flags from First Peoples Nations around the world.

An Australian definition of cultural safety

The following definition is referenced to Robyn Williams as cited by Maryann Bin-Sallik

Cultural safety is an environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning together. Robyn Williams.

The first appearance of William’s definition of cultural safety appeared in 1999. Robyn Williams (Senior Lecturer and PhD student at Charles Darwin University, 2017 recipient of the Australian Health Promotion Association’s President’s Award) published a personal reflection on Cultural safety – what does it mean for our work practice? (1999, Northern Territory) in the context of tertiary education environments being safe for Indigenous people to enter into health and education disciplines.

Then, in 2003, Maryann Bin-Sallik AO (Descendant of the Kija people of the Turkey Creek area, Broome, NAIDOC 2016 Female Elder of the Year, and 2017 Officer of the Order of Australia) published Cultural Safety: Let’s Name It! (2003, Northern Territory) as a reflective description on cultural safety and Indigenous participation in the higher education sector. Bin-Sallik credited Williams with creating the above definition of cultural safety.

Australian Healthcare – Cultural Safety Articles

The list of journal articles below represent the Australian specific development on the topic of cultural safety for Australia’s First Peoples.

  1. Williams R., (1999). Cultural Safety – What Does It Mean for Our Work Practice? Aust N Z J Public Health. Vol.23(2):213-214.
  2. Bin-Sallik M., (2003). Cultural Safety: Let’s Name It! The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education. Vol.32:21-28.
  3. Kendall E., Marshall C.A., (2004). Factors That Prevent Equitable Access to Rehabilitation for Aboriginal Australians with Disabilities: The Need for Culturally Safe Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation Psychology. Vol.49(1):5-13.
  4. Kruske S., Kildea S., Barclay L., (2006). Cultural Safety and Maternity Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Women and Birth. Vol.19(3):73-77.
  5. Johnstone M.-J., Kanitsaki O., (2007a). An Exploration of the Notion and Nature of the Construct of Cultural Safety and Its Applicability to the Australian Health Care Context. Journal of Transcultural Nursing. Vol.18(3):247-256.
  6. Johnstone M.-J., Kanitsaki O., (2007b). Health Care Provider and Consumer Understandings of Cultural Safety and Cultural Competency in Health Care: An Australian Study. Journal of Cultural Diversity. Vol.14(2):96-105.
  7. Belfrage M., (2007). Why “Culturally Safe” Health Care? Medical Journal of Australia. Vol.186(10):537.
  8. Nguyen H.T., (2008). Patient Centred Care – Cultural Safety in Indigenous Health. Australian Family Physician. Vol.37(12):990-994.
  9. Phiri J., Dietsch E., Bonner A., (2010). Cultural Safety and Its Importance for Australian Midwifery Practice. Collegian. Vol.17(3):105-111.
  10. van den Berg R., (2010). Cultural Safety in Health for Aboriginal People: Will It Work in Australia? Med J Aust. Vol.193(3):136-137.
  11. Rigby W., Duffy E., Manners J., Latham H., Lyons L., Crawford L., Eldridge R., (2011). Closing the Gap: Cultural Safety in Indigenous Health Education. Contemp Nurse. Vol.37(1):21-30.
  12. Skellett L., (2012). Cultural Awareness and Cultural Safety. Australian Pharmacist.382-384.
  13. Funston L., (2013). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Worldviews and Cultural Safety Transforming Sexual Assault Service Provision for Children and Young People. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Vol.10(9):3818-3833.
  14. Nelson J., Ryan K., Rotumah D., Bennett-Levy J., Budden W., Stirling J., Wilson S., Beale D., (2014). Aboriginal Practitioners Offer Culturally Safe and Responsive CBT: Response to Commentaries. Australian Psychologist. Vol.49(1):22-27.
  15. Truasheim S., (2014). Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults within Australian Music Therapy Practices. Australian Journal of Music Therapy. Vol.25:135-147.
  16. Wilson A., (2014). Addressing Uncomfortable Issues: Reflexivity as a Tool for Culturally Safe Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education. Vol.43(2):218-230.
  17. Molloy L., Grootjans J., (2014). The Ideas of Frantz Fanon and Culturally Safe Practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Australia. Issues Ment Health Nurs. Vol.35(3):207-211.
  18. Gladman J., Ryder C., Walters L.K., (2015). Measuring Organisational-Level Aboriginal Cultural Climate to Tailor Cultural Safety Strategies. Rural and Remote Health. Vol.15(4):3050.
  19. Fenton C., Jones L.K., (2015). Achieving Cultural Safety in Australian Indigenous Maternity Care. International Journal of Health Sciences. Vol.3(1):23-38.
  20. McLennan V., Taylor N., Rachow A., South G., Chapman K., (2016). Creating Culturally Safe Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Indigenous Australians: A Brief Review of the Literature. Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling.1-11.
  21. Shephard M., O’Brien C., Burgoyne A., Croft J., Garlett T., Barancek K., Halls H., McAteer B., Motta L., Shephard A., (2016). Review of the Cultural Safety of a National Indigenous Point-of-Care Testing Program for Diabetes Management. Aust J Prim Health. Vol.22(4):368-374.
  22. Sjoberg D., McDermott D., (2016). The Deconstruction Exercise: An Assessment Tool for Enhancing Critical Thinking in Cultural Safety Education. International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies. Vol.9(1):28-48.
  23. Brown A.E., Middleton P.F., Fereday J.A., Pincombe J.I., (2016). Cultural Safety and Midwifery Care for Aboriginal Women – a Phenomenological Study. Women Birth. Vol.29(2):196-202. Available:
  24. Milne T., Creedy D.K., West R., (2016). Development of the Awareness of Cultural Safety Scale: A Pilot Study with Midwifery and Nursing Academics. Nurse Education Today. Vol.44:20-25.
  25. West R., Gamble J., Kelly J., Milne T., Duffy E., Sidebotham M., (2016). Culturally Capable and Culturally Safe: Caseload Care for Indigenous Women by Indigenous Midwifery Students. Women and Birth. Vol.29(6):524-530.
  26. Laverty M., McDermott D.R., Calma T., (2017). Embedding Cultural Safety in Australia’s Main Health Care Standards. Med J Aust. Vol.207(1):15-16.
  27. Fleming T., Creedy D.K., West R., (2017). Impact of a Continuing Professional Development Intervention on Midwifery Academics’ Awareness of Cultural Safety. Women and Birth. Vol.30(3):245-252.
  28. Ryder C., Mackean T., Ullah S., Burton H., Halls H., McDermott D., Edmondson W., (2017). Development and Validation of a Questionnaire to Measure Attitude Change in Health Professionals after Completion of an Aboriginal Health and Cultural Safety Training Programme. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education.1-15.
  29. Fleming T., Creedy D.K., West R., (2018a). Cultural Safety Continuing Professional Development for Midwifery Academics: An Integrative Literature Review. Women Birth (article in press).
  30. Jennings W., Bond C., Hill P.S., (2018). The Power of Talk and Power in Talk: A Systematic Review of Indigenous Narratives of Culturally Safe Healthcare Communication. Aust J Prim Health. Vol.24:109-115
  31. Fleming T., Creedy D.K., West R., (2018b). Evaluating Awareness of Cultural Safety in the Australian Midwifery Workforce: A Snapshot. Women and Birth (article in press).

Publications by Committix Pty Ltd


Read  the annual publication – Australian Healthcare Governance and the Cultural Safety and Security of Australia’s First Peoples: An Annual Critique (No.1).

Download the full publication here.

Dr Mark J Lock is available to improve the cultural safety of your organisation’s governance processes by academic review, committee audit, and resource development. This involves:

  • finding your corporate governance documents and analysing them for vision and mission alignment,
  • constructing a governance map of the points and pathways in your organisation’s decision-making structure,
  • workshopping the meaning and nature of cultural safety for you, your staff, and your consumers,
  • providing academic reports to a publishable standard, and
  • developing a strategy and action plan to enable cultural safety through corporate governance.

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