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Embedding cultural safety in Australia’s main health care standards

Martin Laverty, Dennis R McDermott and Tom Calma
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (1): 15-16. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00328

Accreditation with nationally consistent standards for culturally safe clinical care will improve Indigenous health outcomes

In Australia, the existing health safety and quality standards are insufficient to ensure culturally safe care for Indigenous patients in order to achieve optimum care outcomes. Where “business as usual” health care is perceived as demeaning or disempowering — that is, deemed racist or culturally unsafe — it may significantly reduce treatment adherence or result in complete disengagement,1,2 even when this may be life-threatening.3 Peak Indigenous health bodies argue that boosting the likelihood of culturally safe clinical care may substantially contribute to Indigenous health improvement.4 It follows that a more specific embedding of cultural safety within mandatory standards for safe, quality-assured clinical care may strengthen the currently inadequate Closing the Gap mechanisms related to health care delivery.

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  • Martin Laverty1
  • Dennis R McDermott2
  • Tom Calma3

  • 1 Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, Canberra, ACT
  • 2 Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Wellbeing, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA
  • 3 Poche Indigenous Health Network, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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