Culturally safe care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders must be a paramount consideration for organisations

NAIDOC week 2021 concluded yesterday. It is a timely reminder for for organisations to reflect upon whether they are providing services and care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in a culturally safe and appropriate way.

When we consider what constitutes organisational safeguarding, we turn our minds to ensuring that organisations are free from abuse and neglect. A vital and paramount aspect of safeguarding in organisations is to ensure that the organisation provides culturally safe services and care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The failure of aged care providers to provide culturally safe care was a significant yet anticipated finding in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report. The Chair of the Royal Commission, the Honourable Gaetano (Tony) Pagone QC found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not provided with access to aged care at a rate commensurate with their level of need and often do not have access to culturally safe care. He notably commented in the Final Report, “After a lifetime of experiencing marginalisation, discrimination, disadvantage and racism, the Elders and the older people descendent of the first inhabitants of this ancient land deserve better than this.”

Chapter 7 of the Final Report contains Recommendations which are directly related to Aged Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People including provision and access to culturally respectful and safe aged care, cultural safety, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Commissioner, prioritizing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations as aged care providers and ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are provided with employment and training in the aged care sector. The Australian Government has made some provision for these recommendations in the 2021-2022 Federal Budget.

Although the findings above arose from the failings of the Aged Care sector , it is important for other sectors to also embrace these findings and implement recommendations within organisations for best practice. The Victorian Government has implemented the Aboriginal and Cultural Safety Framework which outlines 7 key principles to support individuals and organisations to improve cultural safety in the Department and other mainstream health and community services organisations.

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