Cultural Competence – Transforming Policy, Services, Programs and Practice

Rosalyn Walker, Clinton Schultz, Christopher Sonn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


This chapter discusses some of the complex issues surrounding the notion of cultural
competence—and the critical need for practitioners to develop knowledge, skills,
understandings and attributes to be responsive in diverse cultural settings. The argument for
culturally competent mental health practitioners and services is situated within a human rights
framework which underpins the principles, standards and practice frameworks intended to
facilitate/contribute to the capacity and empowerment of mental health practitioners and
clients, families and communities. The National Practice Standards for the Mental Health
Workforce 2013 (the practice standards) outline core competencies (including cultural
competence) regarded as essential for the mental health workforce: mental health nursing,
occupational therapy, psychiatry, psychology and social work. The documented impact of
these disciplines/professions on Aboriginal people requires new ways of working that are
empowering, respectful and ethical. A case is made for the importance of practitioners
providing more culturally inclusive and appropriate care to increase the likelihood that clients
and their carers will experience a sense of cultural safety (as well as culturally appropriate
services) for Aboriginal clients, their families and communities. The practice standards are
complemented by professional guidelines and the National Standards for Mental Health
Services 2010 (the service standards). This chapter provides a range of tools and strategies and a
Critical Reflection Framework for Analysis to assist students or practitioners to adopt a critical
standpoint in order to develop key competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes and values) to
be culturally respectful and effective in their practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
mental health. Equally important is the need for strategies for self-care and support such as
mentoring, journaling, peer support, counselling and engaging in self-reflective, transformative
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorking Together
Subtitle of host publicationAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice
EditorsPat Dudgeon, Helen Milroy, Roz Walker
Place of PublicationBarton, ACT
PublisherAustralian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780977597536
ISBN (Print)9780957949447
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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