A new strategy is aiming to eliminate racism from the health system and make patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples the norm.
Led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, experts and leaders, the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is seeking to embed cultural safety across the health system and improve access and outcomes.
Released last week, the strategy was developed and endorsed by 42 organisations, academics and individuals, including the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).
The report outlines a strategic direction for project partner the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and its National Scheme in fostering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and ensuring patients accessing the health system feel safe.
The strategy outlines a definition of cultural safety:
“Culturally safe practise is the ongoing critical reflection of health practitioner knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and powers differentials in delivering safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.”
Core objectives within the strategy include:
A culturally safe workforce through nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines across all registered health practitioners in Australia.
Increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the registered health workforce and across all levels of the national scheme regulating registered practitioners nationally.
Greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to culturally safe services of registered practitioners nationally.
Using the Strategy Group’s leadership and influence to achieve reciprocal goals such as thought leadership on nationally agreed approaches to definitions of cultural safety and alignment with standards in education and health services.
Inaugural co-chair of the Strategy Group, Professor Gregory Phillips, said the report marked a major milestone in steps to address health equity and eliminate racism from the health system.
“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group has already instigated and progressed significant reform to help achieve health equity and address racism in the health system,” he said.
“We have much work to do, but together we can have a broad-reaching effect that will help embed cultural safety into the health system across Australia.”
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association CEO, incoming Strategy Group co-chair Karl Briscoe, said patient safety was inextricably linked with cultural safety.
“This means that cultural safety is not an ‘add on’. It’s something all registered health practitioners and health regulators need to understand and apply,” Mr Briscoe said.
Ahpra Chair, Ms Gill Callister, said the development of the strategy was underpinned by self-determination.
“The Strategy Group was guided by a caucus of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members to lead this work and reach a clear definition of cultural safety. As we saw in the recent 10-year Closing the Gap report – our health system must embrace this strategy to fundamentally improve the health of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”