Beyond Awareness: Culturally Safe Practices in our Sector Pilot Program Delivered!

We are excited to share highlights from WorkUP Queensland’s recent pilot program, Beyond Awareness: Culturally Safe Practice In Our Sector, which was delivered to a diverse group of participants across Brisbane. This groundbreaking initiative is designed to enhance culturally safe practice within our sector, and we are thrilled to bring you firsthand insights from one of our incredible participants in this edition of our newsletter. Their experience and reflections provide valuable perspectives on the program’s impact and importance. 

For many working within the community sector, the values-based nature of the work, an awareness of social inequalities and injustices, and a sense of wanting to address these inequalities are core drivers for entering the industry. So, while acknowledging that most workers are well-intentioned it is important to firstly become aware of the white frameworks of thinking that largely govern every facet of “Australian” society (including social work), and to secondly move beyond awareness into culturally safe practice.  

The Beyond Awareness: Culturally Safe Practice in our Sector training program works to challenge ingrained knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture as an essential basis for culturally safe practice. Especially around how history, politics, and social contexts impact ongoing colonising practices.  I found the first two workshops “History” and “Communication” highly valuable in adjusting our thinking towards a framework that centres decolonising principles and the knowledge and experiences of First Nations peoples. This formed a strong basis for unpacking my own privilege and shifting focus towards a comprehension of another way of being. The dominance of Western thinking and structures does not equate to superiority, but rather, its dominance creates an environment where First Nations culture has less value. The basis of critical self-reflection, and of unpacking ingrained assumptions, biases, and values within a cultural context was essential in laying the groundwork of Workshops 3 & 4: “Working in culturally safe ways” and “Building relationships with the community”.

The focus on decolonising thought and practice was of particular interest to me as it is easy to exist in “autopilot”, relying on dominant narratives and not exercising active critical thought. The workshops emphasized valuing acts of resistance, which may be seen as deficits through a Western lens but highlight strength.  Amplifying acts of resistance, constantly naming both my visible and invisible privilege and power, supporting the right to parent, heal and seek justice in cultural ways, being clear with myself around who I want to be accountable to, and making the time to reach out and build relationships are just a couple of examples of ways in which I’d like to work towards decolonising practice.

I strongly believe that this training is essential for those working in the community sector, and particularly within SV, DFV and women’s health and wellbeing. Existing within a Western framework comes with huge levels of cultural unsafety for First Nations women experiencing DFV.  This workshop explores how historical and contemporary experiences with police and social workers, racist stereotypes, and cultural devaluation create and maintain unsafety. It then guides culturally safe practices. Narrative therapy, emphasizing people as experts in their own lives, provided an excellent framework for a strengths-based, person-centred approach where no knowledge or “way” is superior. This training was thoughtful, thought-provoking, and important for everyone, regardless of their knowledge base.

Thank you, Emily, for your invaluable contributions! As we continue to evaluate and refine our program based on participant feedback, we are eagerly preparing for the next delivery of these transformative workshops. Stay tuned and keep your eyes open for upcoming opportunities to engage in Beyond Awareness: Culturally Safe Practice In Our Sector. Together, let’s commit to fostering a more inclusive and culturally safe environment for all.