“We’re very much part of the team here”: A culture of respect for Indigenous health workforce transforms Indigenous health care

Emma V. Taylor, Marilyn Lyford, Lorraine Parsons, Toni Mason, Sabe Sabesan, Sandra C. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background Improving health outcomes for Indigenous people by strengthening the cultural safety of care is a vital challenge for the health sector, both in Australia and internationally. Although Indigenous people have long requested to have Indigenous practitioners involved in their health care, many health services report difficulties with recruiting and retaining Indigenous staff. This article describes Indigenous workforce policies and strategies from two Australian health services, as well as cancer-service specific strategies. Methods Services were identified as part of a national study designed to identify and assess innovative services for Indigenous cancer patients and their families. In-depth interviews were conducted in a small number of identified services. The interviews from two services, which stood out as particularly high performing, were analysed through the lens of Indigenous health workforce. Results Twenty-four hospital staff (Indigenous and non-Indigenous), five Indigenous people with cancer and three family members shared their views and experiences. Eight themes were identified from the way that the two services supported their Indigenous workforce: strong executive leadership, a proactive employment strategy, the Indigenous Health Unit, the Indigenous Liaison Officer, multidisciplinary team inclusion, professional development, work environment and a culture of respect. Participants reported two positive outcomes resulting from the active implementation of the eight workforce themes: ‘Improved Indigenous patient outcomes’ and ‘Improved staff outcomes’. Conclusions These two cancer services and their affiliated hospitals show how positive patient outcomes and a strong Indigenous health workforce can be achieved when a health service has strong leadership, commits to an inclusive and enabling culture, facilitates two-way learning and develops specific support structures appropriate for Indigenous staff. It is hoped that the strategies captured in this study will be used by health services and cancer services to inform their own policies and programs to support building their Indigenous workforce.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239207
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9 September
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


Dive into the research topics of '“We’re very much part of the team here”: A culture of respect for Indigenous health workforce transforms Indigenous health care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this