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Cultural Awareness

What is cultural safety and humility?

A commonly used definition of cultural safety is that of Williams (1999) who defined cultural safety as:

An environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning together.

An important principle of cultural safety is that it doesn’t ask people to focus on the cultural dimensions of any culture other than their own. Instead, cultural safety is primarily about examining our own cultural identities and attitudes, and being open-minded and flexible in our attitudes towards people from cultures other than our own.

Cultural Awareness & Humility

Understanding our own culture, and its influence on how we think, feel and behave is much harder. However, in the increasingly multicultural environments in which we all live and work, the importance of being culturally safe in what we do cannot be underestimated.

Strategies that enhance the ability to be culturally safe include:

  • reflecting on one’s own culture, attitudes and beliefs about ‘others’
  • clear, value free, open and respectful communication
  • developing trust
  • recognizing and avoiding stereotypical barriers
  • being prepared to engage with others in a two-way dialogue where knowledge is shared
  • understanding the influence of culture shock

I walk with individuals and groups on the journey of Cultural awareness, safety and humility. It is an eye-opening journey that can support us in creating new ways of relating with and to our indigenous peoples both personally as well as in service roles or partnerships. This work can be difficult at times thus the importance of having a guide on the side to help navigate the experience one encounters. We also create and develop resources for continuing the learning and engaging long after the formal process.

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