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What is Indigenous Cultural Competency? Main Points There is still no single definition of cultural competence or pedagogical model for it. However, cultural competency (or competence) aims to achieve equality so it is important for all students and staff to have all these components: • knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and contemporary realities and awareness of Indigenous protocols (cultural awareness); • critical reflection on one’s own culture and professional paradigms in order to understand its cultural limitations; • proficiency to engage and work effectively in Indigenous contexts congruent to the expectations of Indigenous Australian peoples; and • effecting positive change in one’s profession. Cultural awareness (knowledge), on its own, has not led to changes in behaviours and attitudes necessary for the delivery of adequate services to Indigenous people. Cultural competence is much more than awareness of cultural differences, as it focuses on the capacity to improve outcomes by integrating culture into the delivery of services. Cultural competency requires commitment to a whole of institution approach. Teaching and learning strategies are central to transmitting the concept and developing its associated behaviours in students and thus, via graduates, to the wider community. Many models of cultural competence suggest developmental stages. Cultural incompetence may be described as destructiveness, incapacity, blindness, pre-­‐competence, denial, defence and minimization. Stages of sensitivity, safety, acceptance, adaption and integration lead to cultural competence and proficiency. One useful pedagogical model as a matrix as a useful tool for curriculum development of units and courses as a sequence from • Generic understanding of culture (knowledge, awareness); to • Understanding Indigenous cultures and histories (knowledge, awareness); to • Reflexivity of values and attitudes; to • Critically examining the profession; to • Cross-­‐cultural skills; to • Professionally specific skills. The learner develops from cultural incompetence to knowledge to awareness to sensitivity to competence and finally to cultural proficiency. National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities What is Cultural Competency? This is a summary from a section of the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities (Universities Australia, 2011). Cultural Competence There is still no single definition of cultural competence, although there is agreement that it includes self-­‐assessment of one’s own cultural heritage as well as knowledge of other cultures and practices, and a consciousness about the interactions between them. Several definitions and descriptions are given here to demonstrate breadth of the term. Cultural competence has key elements: • valuing diversity; • having the capacity for cultural self-­‐assessment; • being conscious of the dynamics inherent in cross-­‐cultural interactions; • institutionalising the importance of cultural knowledge; and • making adaptations to service delivery that reflect cultural understanding. Cultural Competency in the Australian higher education context Cultural competency, although a general term, is contextual. For the purposes of the Australian higher education context, cultural competency is defined as: Student and staff knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and contemporary realities and awareness of Indigenous protocols, combined with the proficiency to engage and work effectively in Indigenous contexts congruent to the expectations of Indigenous Australian peoples. Equality is more than a set of beliefs that we aspire to; more than a set of standards that can be legally enforced. It is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies that come together in an organisation, enabling people to work effectively in cross-­‐cultural situations. Guiding Principles for Cultural Competency in Australian higher education While cultural competency is to be an all-­‐encompassing theme throughout a university, teaching and learning strategies are central to transmitting the concept and its associated behaviours to students and thus, via graduates, to the wider community. Cultural competence enhances capacity in all spheres (academic, management, governance and infrastructure): 1. University governance: Indigenous people should be actively involved in university governance and management. 2. Teaching and learning: All graduates of Australian universities should be culturally competent. 3. Indigenous research: University research should be conducted in a culturally competent way that empowers Indigenous participants and encourages collaborations with Indigenous communities. 4. Human resources: Indigenous staffing will be increased at all appointment levels and, for academic staff, across a wider variety of academic fields. National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities 5. External engagement: Universities will operate in partnership with their Indigenous communities and will help disseminate culturally competent practices to the wider community. Individual Cultural Competence to Institutional Cultural Competence Individual cultural competence may be defined as: The ability to identify and challenge one’s own cultural assumptions, one’s value and beliefs. It is about developing empathy and connected knowledge, the ability to see the world through another’s eyes, or at the very least, to recognise that others may view the world through different cultural lenses. Indigenous Australian cultural competence in relation to higher education requires: • an organisational culture which is committed to social justice, human rights and the process of reconciliation through valuing and supporting Indigenous cultures, knowledges and peoples as integral to the core business of the institution; • effective and inclusive policies and procedures, monitoring mechanisms; • allocation of sufficient resources to foster culturally competent behaviour and practice at all levels of the institution; and • commitment to a whole of institution approach, including o increasing the University’s engagement with Indigenous communities, o Indigenisation of the curriculum, o pro-­‐active provision of services and support to Indigenous students, o capacity building of Indigenous staff, o professional development of non-­‐Indigenous staff and o the inclusion of Indigenous cultures and knowledges as a visual and valued aspect of University life, governance and decision-­‐making. Operational Models for developing Indigenous Cultural Competency Several models show developmental stages from cultural awareness to stages by several different names leading to professional behaviour, attitudes and policies that effects change in policies and service delivery. Cultural incompetence may be described as destructiveness, incapacity, blindness, pre-­‐
competence, denial, defence and minimization. Stages of sensitivity, safety, acceptance, adaption and integration lead to cultural competence and proficiency. Six operational models are described as their different aspects may be important in different courses and contexts. Finally a matrix provided may be a useful tool to map these stages of learning through a course 1. A simple model “Cultural Awareness”: This model has been criticised for its failure to effect change in behaviour and therefore service delivery. Despite more than 25 years of cultural awareness programs operating in Australia, Indigenous Australians continue to find health and other services “alienating and uncomfortable” and continue to experience poor outcomes as a result. National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities It may be because ‘cultural awareness programs and sessions do not have assessments and measurable outcomes and participants do not have to display the achievement of any competencies’. 2. An operational model suggests that cultural safety is achieved in three stages: •
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Cultural Awareness involves developing knowledge and understanding of cultural differences and of the social, economic and political context in which people exist. Cultural Sensitivity is where cultural differences are ‘legitimated’ through a process of self-­‐exploration that enables an individual to reflect on how their culture, worldview and actions impact upon others. Cultural Safety is an environment which is safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, or who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning together with dignity and truly listening. 3. ‘Cultural competence’ transcends notions of cultural awareness and safety to include critical reflexivity of self and profession, capacity building of skills and decolonisation of organisational paradigms, policies and procedures. Cultural competence is much more than awareness of cultural differences, focusing on the capacity to improve outcomes by integrating culture into the delivery of services. Professional cultural competence has ‘measurable human capabilities involving knowledge, skills, and values, which are assembled in work performance demonstrated by: • knowledge of other cultures; • personal qualities of openness, flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity and a sense of humour; • behavioural skills, such as communication competencies, culturally appropriate role behaviour and ability to relate well to others; • self-­‐awareness, especially of one's own values and beliefs; and • technical skills, including ability to complete tasks in new cultural settings. 4. A six stage sequential development of cultural competence and proficiency of individuals and organisations through personal and professional development, commitment and systemic organisational change: Individuals and organisations are said to be at the stage of: • being culturally destructive when they hold beliefs or engage in policies and practices that perpetuate and reinforce historical notions of Western racial and cultural superiority; • cultural incapacity when they have developed sufficient knowledge, insight and skills to operate in less culturally destructive ways but continue to reinforce National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities •
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culturally-­‐biased policies and practices and covertly foster notions of Western superiority through paternalism; cultural blindness when they are actively seeking to be nonbiased in their policy and practice but in so doing implicitly or explicitly encourage assimilation by failing to adequately recognise and address the needs of the cultural minority; cultural pre-­‐competence having recognition of the need for culturally competent policies, procedures and professional development, yet this recognition does not extend beyond tokenism or discussions on strategies; cultural competence when they have developed the knowledge, reflexivity and skills necessary to be genuinely accepting and respecting of cultural differences and actively implementing policies and procedures that support these beliefs and commitment; cultural proficiency when they have inclusive policies and procedures in place and have a fully integrated workforce, being pro-­‐active in seeking to refine their approach and practice through research, cross-­‐cultural engagement and ongoing professional development and act upon a set of values and guiding principles that support cultural competence and cultural proficiency in every aspect of their personal, professional, and organizational functioning. 5. Another 6-­‐stage model of cross-­‐cultural competency is a sequential development of knowledge and cognitive processing on a continuum from denial to integration. The first three stages are considered to be ethno-­‐centric in which individuals use their own culture as the benchmark for viewing all others. In the denial stage, individuals recognise their own culture as the ‘real’ one. Individuals do not recognize that differences among people can be based upon culture or social structure. Instead, they view all people as alike with any differences a result of personal choice. When people first recognize that culture and social structure do influence individuals’ beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviour, they may move to the second stage. During the defence stage, they begin to acknowledge the existence of other cultures; however, at this stage their worldview structure delimits their understanding so that they see their own culture as the ideal and other cultures as inferior. Individuals tend to think about other cultures hierarchically. Typically, western, industrialized cultures are ranked highest by westerners with other cultures falling in status as they differ from this norm. The third stage, minimization, is similar to cultural blindness, in which cultural differences are recognized but viewed as inconsequential. The remaining three stages are described as ethno-­‐relative. In the fourth stage, individuals accept differences without judging or minimizing them. People who achieve the fifth stage, adaptation, are able to alter their own behaviour to accommodate the behaviour of those who differ from themselves. National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities In the final stage, integration, individuals celebrate and incorporate cultural differences into their way of being. A Pedagogical Model for Building Cultural Competence There is currently no commonly agreed upon pedagogical framework to guide appropriate course and program development in this field across the sector. However, if the aim is for students and staff to become skilled to function effectively in inter-­‐cultural contexts and develop a culturally competent system, then the following matrix may be a useful tool for curriculum development of units and courses that may achieve this aim. A pedagogical matrix can be used for curriculum development, showing foundational knowledge, understandings, skills and attributes to program-­‐specific content and strategies required for culturally competent engagement and professional practice. A developmental model for Indigenous Cultural Proficiency in a university course or unit Reference Universities Australia. (2011). National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) Retrieved from http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/lightbox/1312. National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities