A postcolonial analysis of Indigenous cultural awareness training for health workers

Downing, Rosie; Kowal, Emma
March 2011
Health Sociology Review;Mar2011, Vol. 20 Issue 1, p5
Academic Journal
Indigenous cultural training for health workers is an increasingly popular intervention designed to improve the health services provided to Indigenous peoples in Australia. The provision of this training is based on the recognition that the measured discrepancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes is in part influenced by cultural difference and a history of racism in Australian society. Indigenous cultural training in Australia predominantly draws on a 'cultural awareness' framework which seeks to educate health workers about 'Indigenous culture'. To date, evaluations of Indigenous cultural training programs have found them to have questionable efficacy, although most of these evaluations have been methodologically inadequate. This article draws on postcolonial theory to explore the limitations of Indigenous cultural training as it is commonly conceptualised. Issues of essentialising 'Indigenous culture', 'otherness' and the absence of systemic responsibility for culturally appropriate health service provision are discussed. Finally, we consider future directions for Indigenous cultural training that are useful to both Indigenous service users and the health workers charged with 'closing the gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes.


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