Building The Blocks of Cultural Competency in Melbourne's North West




Providing a culturally welcoming, responsive and culturally competent service involves ensuring your workplace acknowledges the traditional owners of the land and makes respectful use of art, symbols, and language. Cultural responsiveness also requires that staff not only have knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, traditions, and protocols, but are also aware of the historical and current issues impacting upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples engagement with health service providers.

When fully embedded, cultural responsiveness also involves the implementation of policies and practices which ensure decision making is culturally informed and systemic barriers to accessing services experienced by the Aboriginal community are addressed.


Securing the commitment of high level management and/or governance structures is critical to implementing meaningful change across organisations.

A cultural audit tool is used to assess cultural responsiveness by addressing a number of standards relating to:

  • - culturally inclusive workplace documents such as mission statements, vision, values, and strategic plans;
    engagement with the Aboriginal community;
  • - Aboriginal consultation in the planning, delivery and evaluation of workplace activities;
    providing a culturally welcoming environment;
  • - staff being culturally aware and having knowledge of local Aboriginal organisations and programs;
    workplace cultural protocols;
  • - the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal staff; and
    processes for continuous quality improvement.


The workplace cultural auditing process will lead to the development of an Action Plan for implementation. An Action Plan is most effective when it includes actions, timelines, responsibility and budget allocation.

Cultural awareness training should be recurring, compulsory for all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff, conducted by a professional Aboriginal consultant, and include:

an understanding and awareness of the history of Australia from an Aboriginal person’s perspective;
an understanding of how the experiences of Aboriginal people impact upon access and engagement with services today;
knowledge of the local Aboriginal context; and
the practical application of providing a culturally responsive service to address barriers to access.
For further information regarding identifying Aboriginal consultants for specific training purposes contact a local Aboriginal organization.


Title Helping Your Organisation to Create a Welcoming Environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People
Author Inner North West Primary Care Partnership, 2014
Type Publication
This guide responds to research on the need to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to health services. The publication is a resource to assist organisations to purchase or source relevant information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, social enterprises, and peak body organisations providing culturally appropriate information, training, auditing and community services.

Title Koolin Balit Cultural Resource Guide
Author State Government of Victoria, Department of Health 2014
Type Publication
Cultural awareness, cultural safety, and cultural competency are vital to an organisations ability to effectively attract, recruit and retain Aboriginal employees and to deliver culturally responsive health services. This quick reference guide has been prepared to assist health services in sourcing and accessing some of the many cultural tools and training available today. When selecting cultural training, please be advised that online training is most effective when accompanied by locally focused face-to-face training.

TitleCASAT – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Awareness Self-Assessment Toolkit: Good Practice Standards for Culturally Appropriate Community Services
Author ACTCOSS (ACT Australian Council of Social Services) 2014
Type Publication

This cultural auditing tool can assist your organisation to:

  •  - document your knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture;
  • - assess your practice in assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and
  • - plan to develop your service to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Title Karreeta Yirramboi: an Employer Toolkit to Grow Aboriginal Employment in Your Organisation
Author State Services Authority , State Government of Victoria 2011
Type Publication
This publication was produced by the Government of Victoria to increase Aboriginal employment in the public sector. Chapter One of the Guide addresses the development of cultural awareness and competency as a precursor to employing Aboriginal staff.

Title Ngarngadji! Listen /Understand! Improving Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Patients (ICAP) Resource Kit
Author Victorian Department of Health 2009
Type Publication

The ICAP Resources Project comprises of a set of resources to assist health services in implementing the ICAP (Improving Care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients) program successfully.

The kit is targeted to all health service staff. Some resources are specifically targeted to managers and supervisors who have the responsibility of overseeing the establishment and implementation of the ICAP Program.

Title Cultural Audit Checklist : Creating a Welcoming Environment
Author Healthwest
Type Publication
This resource is a simple Cultural Audit Checklist that health services can use to evaluate the extent to which they are creating a welcoming environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service users.

Title Making Two Worlds Work: Building the Capacity of the Health and Community Sector to Work Effectively and Respectfully with our Aboriginal Community
Author Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation & Women’s Health Goulburn North 2008
Type Multimedia
This resource kit aims to assist health care workers in the Hume region of Victoria to provide culturally competent health care to Indigenous peoples. The kit includes: posters, an audit tool kit, information about working with Aboriginal clients and organisations, information about ‘using an Aboriginal health promotion framework through an Aboriginal lens’, a CD with Indigenous images, a DVD and welcome sticker and template, and an information guide providing answers about Aboriginal health, history and protocols.

Title Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Quality Improvement Framework and Toolkit for Hospital Staff
Author St Vincent’s Hospital 2015
Type On-Line Toolkit
This resource contains quality improvement processes, tools and guidelines to enhance service response to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. Designed for Australian hospitals, the Toolkit provides a systematic approach to improving Aboriginal health service delivery.

Title Protocols for Recognising Traditional Owners
Author Aboriginal Victoria
Type On-line information
This website provides information and an example of organisational cultural protocols. The Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria is a key agency that provides advice to the Victorian Government on Aboriginal policy and delivers a range of programs.

Title Aboriginal Cultural Competence Framework
Author VACCA and the Department of Human Services 2008
Type Publication
This paper describes the understandings, principles and service context that underpin Aboriginal cultural competence for the child and family services system in Victoria.