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Original Research

Measuring organisational-level Aboriginal cultural climate to tailor cultural safety strategies

Submitted: 13 March 2014
Revised: 6 February 2015
Accepted: 7 May 2015
Published: 8 October 2015

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Author(s) : Gladman J, Ryder C, Walters LK.

Lucie Walters

Citation: Gladman J, Ryder C, Walters LK.  Measuring organisational-level Aboriginal cultural climate to tailor cultural safety strategies. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2015; 15: 3050. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  Australian medical schools have taken on a social accountability mandate to provide culturally safe contexts in order to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to engage in medical education and to ensure that present and future clinicians provide health services that contribute to improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many programs have sought to improve cultural safety through training at an individual level; however, it is well recognised that learners tend to internalise the patterns of behaviour to which they are commonly exposed. This project aimed to measure and reflect on the cultural climate of an Australian rural clinical school (RCS) as a whole and the collective attitudes of three different professional groups: clinicians, clinical academics and professional staff. The project then drew on Mezirow’s Transformative Learning theory to design strategies to build on the cultural safety of the organisation.
Methods:  Clinicians, academic and professional staff at an Australian RCS were invited to participate in an online survey expressing their views on Aboriginal health using part of a previously validated tool.
Results:  Survey response rate was 63%. All three groups saw Aboriginal health as a social priority. All groups recognised the fundamental role of community control in Aboriginal health; however, clinical academics were considerably more likely to disagree that the Western medical model suited the health needs of Aboriginal people. Clinicians were more likely to perceive that they treated Aboriginal patients the same as other patients. There was only weak evidence of future commitments to Aboriginal health. Importantly, clinicians, academics and professional staff demonstrated differences in their cultural safety profile which indicated the need for a tailored approach to cultural safety learning in the future.
Conclusions:  Through tailored approaches to cross-cultural training opportunities we are likely to ensure participants are able to engage with the material and reflect upon implications of a challenging cultural climate on the health and wellbeing outcomes of Aboriginal people.

Key words: Aboriginal health, Australia, cultural competence, cultural safety, medical student training, rural clinical schools.

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