What Is Cultural Safety?

‘Cultural safety’ is defined by the cultural safety principles of awareness, sensitivity, competency, and humility. It describes an environment where members are self-reflective and respectful, especially towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; it’s a space where everyone can recognise their own cultural biases and be open-minded about the differences in other’s beliefs and practices.

Cultural safety emerged in the late 1980s, primarily as a framework for delivering better health services to Indigenous people. However, it has gone beyond healthcare, being encouraged in all professional settings. Achieving cultural safety in the workplace begins with education, so it’s valuable for today’s workplaces to undergo First Nations cultural competency training, such as the programs offered by Evolve Communities.

What It Means to Be Culturally Safe

A culturally safe environment is one where everyone, especially Indigenous people, is physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially safe to express and practise their own culture. Let’s break down what it means to have cultural safety in the workplace.

Physical Safety

‘Physical safety’ refers to the absence of physical abuse based on a person’s culture. A culturally safe space will be void of any incidents of workplace violence, which could manifest in the form of rumours, pranks, sabotage, theft, and assault, among others.

To promote physical safety, it’s important to implement a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence and to set prevention programs for untoward behaviour. Failing to do so may result in high employee turnover and decreased workplace motivation and productivity.

Spiritual and Emotional Safety

Spiritual and emotional safety are both underlined by psychological safety. A culturally safe environment allows for interpersonal risk-taking, which means that employees feel accepted and respected, so much so that they feel comfortable communicating. No one should feel as though they must refrain from contributing opinions, asking questions, or offering ideas for fear of reprisal, rejection, or criticism. 

Good communication is paramount to fostering spiritual and emotional safety. Without it, innovation and collaboration are stifled, which could lead to stagnation and poor employee retention.

Social Safety

Social safety describes a space where people feel safe to form social bonds with others. This happens when the environment is open and respectful and members can acknowledge their differences and recognise how cultural bias examples can affect their perspectives and practices. 

The Importance of Cultural Safety

Cultural safety is often believed to only benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but a culturally safe environment is advantageous to everyone because it ensures that all are granted their fundamental right to feel secure in the workplace and perform their professional tasks without fear of discrimination.

When a workplace fosters cultural safety, a company experiences tons of pros, including lower employee turnover, enhanced work productivity, and higher levels of trust. 

How to Achieve Cultural Safety

Achieving cultural safety is a responsibility that falls on everyone’s shoulders. That said, it’s best built from top to bottom. Management must set the right standards and examples. Here are some strategies that you can take to create a culturally safe workplace:

Invest in Cultural Competency Training

Cultural safety is learned, so investing in cultural competency training is imperative to achieve it. Cultural competency programs, such as the ones offered by Evolve Communities, are designed to equip people with the tools they need to be more culturally understanding and sensitive. 

Open Channels for Dialogue

Communication is key when it comes to fostering cultural safety. Employees must be comfortable in expressing their ideas and concerns, and that means ensuring that channels for dialogue are open, welcoming, and non-judgmental. In addition to open lines of communication, management must also set channels for reporting so that it’s easy for people to bring up instances of disrespect or discrimination without being scared of any repercussions for doing so.

Create Guidelines for Cultural Safety

Review your employee handbook and make sure that it includes sections on cultural safety and sensitivity. It should outline definitions, standards, and consequences to guarantee that the workplace is free of biases and violence.

Make Your Workplace Culturally Safe With Evolve Communities

Evolve Communities is a trusted authority for Indigenous cultural awareness and ally training with years of experience in helping to create more inclusive spaces. We offer various cultural competency training programs designed to help you build a culturally safe environment. Contact us today to learn more!

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