Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Aboriginal cultural awareness training: policy v. accountability – failure in reality

Barbara Westwood A B C and Geoff Westwood A

A Echuca Regional Health, 17 Francis Street, Echuca, VIC 3564, Australia.

B Aboriginal Health Unit, South West Sydney Area Health Service (SWSAHS), Locked Bag 7017, Liverpool BC, NSW 1871, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: bgwestwood@gmail.com

Australian Health Review 34(4) 423-429 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH09546
Submitted: 15 June 2007  Accepted: 18 February 2010   Published: 25 November 2010

Abstract

Despite 42 years progress since the 1967 referendum enabling laws to be made covering Aboriginal Australians their poor health status remains and is extensively documented. This paper presents results of a study into Cultural Awareness Training (CAT) in New South Wales and specifically South West Sydney Area Health Service (SWSAHS) with the aim of improving long-term health gains. The evidence demonstrates poor definition and coordination of CAT with a lack of clear policy direction and accountability for improving cultural awareness at government level. In SWSAHS staff attendance at training is poor and training is fragmented across the Area. The paper proposes actions to improve Aboriginal cultural awareness for health professionals including incorporating Aboriginal CAT into broader based Cross Cultural Training (CCT).

What is known about the topic? Cross-cultural education programs for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health industry staff are poorly coordinated, delivered and evaluated. There is recognition that improvements in this area could bring real enhancements in service delivery and health outcomes.

What does this paper add? The deficiencies in Aboriginal CAT programs in general are explored and specifically identified in one large NSW health area with a major urban Aboriginal population. This paper reviews CAT themes in the literature and evaluates the effectiveness of known programs.

What are the implications for practitioners? The authors list a series of recommendations that have the potential to improve awareness of Aboriginal cultural issues to provide a basis for development of effective and comprehensive CAT programs to bring real improvements in service delivery.


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