One in 4 nurses and midwives experience racial discrimination in NSW

One in four nurses and midwives experience racial discrimination monthly and two out of three do not report the incident, a new report released by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) examining workplace discrimination faced by its culturally and linguistically diverse members has revealed.

Exposing widespread cultural discrimination between workers in the health sector, The Cultural Safety Gap report also found almost 90% of nurses and midwives were unaware of any cultural support programs available in their workplace.

Nurses and midwives who completed the survey hailed from 100 different cultural and linguistic background, with the most common being Indian, Filipino, African, Chinese and Nepalese.

The majority of respondents (70%) were registered nurses and were employed across various settings including public and private hospitals, primary healthcare and residential aged care, however, workplace setting and role did not have a significant impact on the experiences of culturally diverse nurses and midwives.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the report aimed to open up the conversation around the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse nurses and midwives and seek solutions to racial discrimination experienced within the workplace.

“Historically, the focus has often been on workers being aware of patients’ or residents’ cultural backgrounds or sensitivities, while little has been done to encourage inclusiveness between work colleagues.” Mr Holmes explained.

“Our report shows culturally and linguistically diverse nurses and midwives employed at all levels, and in all types of health settings, experienced some form of racial discrimination in their workplace.”

Mr Holmes said the discrimination ranged from verbal attacks to isolation and unfair scheduling of workloads.

The main form of racial discrimination was stereotyping, with 54% of respondents being subjected to stereotyping based on their culture, language or appearance.

“Workplace discrimination is also not confined to one specific area in the health sector either. These issues are prevalent across the public health system, private sector and also in aged care.”

Accent or language discrimination also emerged in the report as being widespread, particularly in the aged care sector.

“Thirty percent of nurses and midwives confirmed they had been instructed not to speak languages other than English in their workplace,” Mr Holmes said.

The report’s findings call for building a positive culture for the future and promoting equal and equitable treatment to all staff.

Mr Holmes acknowledged more work needed to be done to improve organisational cultures and close the cultural safety gap for nurses and midwives.

The NSWNMA is working with SafeWork NSW, Anti-Discrimination NSW and the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra to promote inclusiveness and build cultural safety in workplaces.

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