Creating Cultural Safety in the Workplace
Murawin Managing Director Carol Vale says businesses must undertake a thorough internal audit to determine what they need to become culturally safe.
“Organisations should see what they are doing to embed Indigenous perspectives across all aspects of their work,” advises Ms Vale.
“There are several elements to consider: physical cultural safety, psychological cultural safety and then how those things integrate into the service delivery model.”
Internal cultural safety measures may include updating HR and OH&S policies for all staff and improving career development or leadership opportunities for Indigenous staff through on the job training, development strategies and mentoring.
“It’s about creating inclusion within the governance areas, so it’s essential to build a robust framework, not just tacked-on measures,” says Ms Vale.
Reinforcing the cultural competencies of all staff is one simple way to ensure people feel culturally safe in the workplace.
“If any staff are struggling in the workplace or with providing services to Indigenous people, organisations should look at providing training, access to cultural supervision or regular cultural briefings,” Ms Vale explains.
When building more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, businesses can also examine their partner relationships to see if there is a community-controlled service delivery option for Indigenous clients.
“If there is an Indigenous organisation that’s better placed to do it, then perhaps partner with them, to help to build their capacity,” says Ms Vale.
Working on Country
For organisations whose Indigenous staff work on Country, Ms Vale says it’s important to set the tone for a successful relationship by following cultural protocols and liaising with local elders.
“Some organisations are mandated to perform certain tasks, and the nature of that work means Aboriginal staff are asked to do something that has a negative impact on them spiritually,” Ms Vale explains.
“For instance, I did some work with a wildlife service recently, and women were doing fire control on men’s sites and vice versa. Even Aboriginal people need to understand the cultural landscape they’re working in.”
An open, consultative approach that integrates conversations with elders, asking elders to accompany you on site visits, or getting a thorough explanation of the areas you’ll be entering are just a few of the ways staff can prepare for work on Country.
“It’s about understanding the cultural landscape,” Ms Vale states.
“Know local stories and one or two language words, like how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’ and privilege Aboriginal knowledge within the workplace in partnership with Aboriginal people.”
A confident future
Businesses that take the time to ensure cultural safety measures are a part of their organisational culture will see benefits far beyond their interactions with Indigenous staff and clients.
“In a workplace that is culturally safe, Aboriginal staff are more comfortable with going into their workplace – they feel more listened to,” explains Ms Vale.
“You get a much more productive Indigenous workforce; you also get a more productive non-Indigenous workforce because they understand the stories of place and where Aboriginal culture fits within their work.”
While there are many ways to create a culturally safe and inclusive workplace, Ms Vale advises businesses that are unsure of where to start should look to existing frameworks for interacting respectfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or seek the guidance of an Indigenous consultant.
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