Closing the Gap: Cultural safety in Indigenous health education

Abstract

The challenge for the future is to embrace a new partnership aimed at closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities. Significant improvements in contemporary Indigenous health care can be achieved through culturally safe health education programs for Indigenous students. However, while participation rates of Australian Indigenous[1] students in the higher education sector are increasing, attrition rates are markedly higher than those of the general student population. This paper focuses on a unique degree program that is offered exclusively to Indigenous students in the field of mental health in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University.

This qualitative exploratory study aimed to identify strategies that were especially helpful in sustaining students in the program and to identify and address barriers to the retention of students, to empower students to better prepare for the university environment and to inform academics within the course about areas that could be improved to provide a more culturally safe learning environment. The first stage of the study utilised focus group interviews with 36 Indigenous students across all three years of the program. The findings of the study addressing the issues of culturally appropriate pedagogy, curricula and cultural safety in the mental health degree program are discussed.

 


[1] There are different terms used to describe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this paper Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are referred to as Indigenous peoples. The authors wish to recognise the diversity of the cultures, languages, kinship structures and ways of life of Indigenous peoples.

Authors

Wayne Rigby
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, NSW

Elaine Duffy
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, NSW

Jan Manners
Educational designer, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW

Heather Latham
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW

Lorraine Lyons
Wagga Aboriginal Land Council, Wagga Wagga NSW

Laurie Crawford
Indigenous Student Services, Charles Sturt University, NSW

Ray Eldridge
Indigenous Student Services, Charles Sturt University, NSW

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Keywords

cultural safety; Indigenous education; Indigenous health; health and well-being; resilience

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