Cultural consciousness

Over the next few months we will be exploring themes around cultural consciousness and cultural humility and what it means for our sector.

Cultural humility enables us to increase our ability to see things from other’s viewpoints and helps us to be able to work better together across the sector, by understanding different cultural backgrounds. It encourages us to challenge power imbalances and to be more self reflective of our beliefs and our behaviours.

We will start with talking about cultural awareness.

For over 60,000 years, Australia has had extremely diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

It was estimated that prior to 1788, Australia had over 500 clan groups/nations with many distinctive cultures, beliefs, law and languages.

That number has obviously declined due to the impacts of colonisation and other contributing factors but as a frontline service worker, are you meant to know all these differing Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander cultures when we provide services and supports to them?

How do we know the nuances that make up body language in communities from Far North Queensland? Are you supposed to know the complex interactions and relationships between community members in South West Queensland?

These questions although common, can be at least looked at through the lens of cultural awareness or competency to better understand how you can process these cultural distinctions about the clients and communities you work with.

Cultural awareness

The question is often asked “Why do I need to do cultural awareness?”

The simple answer is that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and communities you work with, will appreciate your help and your willingness to walk and talk with them.

A good definition of cultural awareness is:

“Someone’s cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds especially differences in attitudes and values.”

It’s a process of becoming sensitive and aware to the existence of cultural practices from outside your own. In a practical sense, this often means a short workshop where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history is explained as an overview and considered in the context of traditional life, spirituality, relationships, lore and impacts of colonisation.

The purpose of cultural awareness is to create a space in which to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities with an understanding of the differences and issues that have impacted on them.

So the next time you have an opportunity to participate in cultural awareness training or engage in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients or communities, take it.  Don’t miss the opportunity to find out more and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders sharing their culture.

 “Here in Australia we’re fortunate enough to have one of the richest and oldest continuing cultures in the world. This is something we should all be proud of and celebrate.”

Dr Tom Calma AO, Co-Chair Reconciliation Australia