Indigenous cultural training for health workers in Australia

Int J Qual Health Care. 2011 Jun;23(3):247-57. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzr008. Epub 2011 Apr 4.


Purpose: Culturally inappropriate health services contribute to persistent health inequalities. This article reviews approaches to indigenous cultural training for health workers and assesses how effectively they have been translated into training programmes within Australia.

Data sources: CINAHL PLUS, MEDLINE, Wiley InterScience, ATSIHealth and ProQuest.

Study selection: The review focuses on the conceptual and empirical literature on indigenous cultural training for health workers within selected settler-colonial countries, together with published evaluations of such training programmes in Australia. Data extraction Information on conceptual models underpinning training was extracted descriptively. Details of authors, year, area of investigation, participant group, evaluation method and relevant findings were extracted from published evaluations.

Results of data synthesis: Six models relevant to cultural training were located and organized into a conceptual schema ('cultural competence, transcultural care, cultural safety, cultural awareness, cultural security and cultural respect'). Indigenous cultural training in Australia is most commonly based on a 'cultural awareness' model. Nine published evaluations of Australian indigenous cultural training programmes for health workers were located. Of the three studies that assessed change at multiple points in time, two found positive changes. However, the only study to include a control group found no effect.

Conclusion: This review shows that the evidence for the effectiveness of indigenous cultural training programmes in Australia is poor. Critiques of cultural training from indigenous and non-indigenous scholars suggest that a 'cultural safety' model may offer the most potential to improve the effectiveness of health services for indigenous Australians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cultural Competency / education*
  • Education
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Population Groups
  • Prejudice