Closing the Gap Report 2021 – Cultural Safety = Reduced Racism in Government Services?

I’ve been in health policy analysis since 2004, and before that – from 1998 – in various health roles in Aboriginal health. Thus, I’ve seen a lot of governments spruik their reports and expenditure about First Nations Australians. It’s all glamorous and glitzy in the reports, in front of the cameras, and on the news. Take a large pinch of salt.


Closing the Gap Implementation Plan

Source: https://www.niaa.gov.au/resource-centre/indigenous-affairs/closing-gap-implementation-plan

Another government, another plan

“Embedding cultural safety in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan is being refreshed and will include a focus on cultural safety to align with the human rights-based approach of the Cultural Respect Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 2016-2026.” (p. 18)

The focus used to be culturally appropriate, then cultural competence, now it’s cultural safety. I see cultural humility being promoted more too in academic journal articles. And let’s not forget cultural security . . . The cultural terms change, Aboriginal plans are refreshed, governments change, so it feels to me like Groundhog Day.

Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report July 2021

Source: https://www.pc.gov.au/closing-the-gap-data/annual-data-report

Data, data, data – add some salt

Continued in the next column . . .

“Governments, their organisations and their institutions are accountable for Closing the Gap and are culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through the services they fund. [clause 17. c.]” (p. 11)

and then the “target” is:

“Decrease in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experiences of racism. [clause 81.a.iii.]” (p. 11)

I’ve seen that emphasis creeping into many reports, that cultural safety is an anti-racism strategy, including in the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s Health and Cultural Safety Strategy (source: https://www.ahpra.gov.au/About-Ahpra/Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-Health-Strategy/health-and-cultural-safety-strategy.aspx)

Look, I’m struggling to put my thoughts into writing. I feel like it oversimplifies cultural safety to say it’s an anti-racism strategy. Racism is important, as I experience it, and Australian governments and bureaucracies are racial structures, but to imply absence of racism means culturally safe organisations?

Love to hear your thoughts on this too

Government reports lack validity

The three government reports (the health plan, the implementation plan, and the compilation report) copy and paste ‘cultural safety’ and ‘culturally safe’ throughout their reports. Not a single reference to any academic journals. You know I collect journal articles about cultural safety, and plenty of them contain topics about indicators for cultural safety.

Why is the rich body of knowledge about cultural safety contained in academic journal articles excluded from government reports?

It is because they are political documents made by invisible bureaucrats directed by political masters to produce election documents. Ok, big opinion there. I’ve worked in governments as a policy advisor, been at those tables where politics take precedence over equity, and seen the politicisation of reports. Take some more salt.

In summary, another big day of reports and funding announcements of which there will be many more.

I don’t know how or when the cycle will be broken.

What are your thoughts on cultural safety and racism, and government reports?

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By drlockediting

I apply my academic and cultural skills to editing your important writing. With a Doctor of Philosophy (Public Health), Master of Public Health, Honours in Nutrition, and a Bachelor of Science, I bring strong educational skills to my editing. As a First Nations Australia (Ngiyampaa), with First Fleet heritage (The Lucas Clan) and growing up in country NSW, I bring a unique cultural lens to my practice. My editing will empower your cultural safety - respecting your cultural identity, heritage, and values - so that your cultural voice shines through in your writing. If you need editing of your creative writing, academic writing, or report writing, then contact Cultural Safety Editing Service.

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