Cultural Competence – Transforming Policy, Services, Programs and Practice

Roz Walker, Clinton Robert Schultz, Christopher Sonn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterEducationpeer-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)1 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). 2 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 practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorking Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice
EditorsPat Dudgeon, Helen Milroy, Roz Walker
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherCommonwealth Government of Australia
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9775975-3-6
ISBN (Print)97809579494-4-7
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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