What are the four features of Cultural Competence?

There is no doubt that cultural awareness promotes cultural safety – the gold standard of inclusion, equality, staff welfare and organisational success.

If you are investigating the potential options to introduce Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal cultural competency training into your workplace, it is worth understanding the vital components of a robust learning framework.

Today we answer the question, “What are the four features of cultural competence?”, as a way to showcase the skills and knowledge that will benefit your workforce – and what to look for in a quality educational process.

What Does Cultural Competence Mean?

Somebody who is culturally competent can empathise, acknowledge, and interact effectively with individuals of cultures different from their own.

This ability is essential in a diverse world with a wealth of ideas, experiences and perspectives to study and grow from.

Multicultural competency provides a basis for excellent communications, dynamic collaborations and an accessible, inclusive workplace with cross-cultural teams working side by side.

There are several elements to cultural competence:

  • An understanding of our own cultures and ethnicities.
  • Openness to discover different cultural principles and worldviews.
  • Demonstrating positivity towards the value of cultural differences.

The four features we’ve mentioned all play a part: awareness, attitude, knowledge, and ability.

1. Cultural Competence Awareness

Any learning process begins with self-awareness, assessing our beliefs and values, along with the way they may impact how we form ideas about others or interpret different behaviours and responses.

Awareness also means determining ways we may be unconsciously biassed or noting blind spots that need to be addressed.

2. Cultural Competence Attitude

Put simply, an open approach is necessary to ensure we realise our deeply held beliefs and how that feeds into our emotional responses when we encounter cultural differences.

There are inherent variances in attitudes towards diversity and equality between communities and ethnic groups, usually due to exposure, discrimination, and oppression within our sphere of experience and interpretation.

3. Cultural Competence Knowledge

Many of us are uninformed about diverse cultures, and knowledge can profoundly affect how we behave and show consideration.

For example, knowing how culture impacts problem solving, management styles, or asking for help can benefit cross-cultural communications.

We don’t know what we don’t know, so cultural competence necessitates a learning process to fill those gaps in our knowledge.

4. Cultural Competence Ability

The fourth element of cultural competence is the ability or skill to put that knowledge and self-analysis into action in proactive and positive ways.

It’s great to have a solid awareness, but we need to practise skills and apply that competence to avoid unintentional discrimination or bias.

Why is Cultural Competence so Important?

Australia is composed of a diverse range of individuals with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people with a distinct history and cultural identity.

We all need to engage and interact with each other in our daily lives and in the workplace, which gives us broader opportunities to build relationships.

A lack of cultural competence makes it impossible to develop those connections without navigating cultural barriers, exercising empathy and respect, or appreciating varying socioeconomic statuses.

Cultural competence encompasses accepting and recognising cultural beliefs, backgrounds and behaviours to help us showcase equality, inclusion and diversity.

How Can Organisations Improve Cultural Competence?


Increasing cultural competence requires an ongoing effort and continued skill development.

There are several ways to initiate a journey of discovery and education, which may begin with:

  • Listening and learning: many of us are not experts in every culture. It is important to accept this and ask those questions to understand what we don’t yet know and embrace the opportunity to comprehend.
  • Self-awareness: committing to self-assessment and critique can help us to identify unconscious bias and re-evaluate the way we approach the world through the lens of our own culture and experience.
  • Education: cultural competence training is an effective way to familiarise yourself and your teams with the different perspectives around you, enhancing your knowledge and skills through learning programmes to work through each step to build a solid foundation.

An acknowledgement of our own worldviews, a positive approach towards cultural differences, and knowing how to put that education to good use is an excellent way to improve cultural competence and demonstrate positive leadership.

Organisations in Australia that welcome diversity and make concerted efforts to advocate for the importance of cultural competency benefit from a broader range of talent and more successful, respectful customer engagements.

The process leads to more open-minded environments, where employees can respect varying viewpoints, improving teamwork and providing a basis for culturally synergised collaborations with hugely positive outcomes.

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