why is this important?

Ensuring your council is a culturally safe organisation is foundational for any work with First Peoples. Councils who are working to create sustainable models for council practices should begin with a basis of cultural safety for councillors, employees and constituents. 

Reconciliation work must be deep to be meaningful and without your council being culturally safe, many community members will be unwilling to share their truths and provide honest feedback. This will damage the legitimacy of your overall work. For example, it will be difficult for your council to have an effective and genuine partnership with a Voice to Council without first ensuring that the Voice is part of a broader organisation that is knowledgeable, understanding, responsive and safe. 

Cultural awareness and cultural competency are key components in fostering organisational cultural safety. It is important for council’s to distinguish the differences between cultural safety, cultural awareness and cultural competency and the important role each of these play in achieving meaningful reconciliation and building capacity across the organisation.

Recommended Strategies

  • Hire First Peoples-owned business/organisations to conduct cultural awareness and safety training with staff and councillors to ensure there is a deep understanding of the local histories and contexts across council.
  • Audit policies and procedures and consider how they can be made more culturally safe.
  • Provide access for staff and councillors to culturally-safe employee assistance programs.
  • Research and understand the difference between cultural awareness, cultural competency and cultural safety.
  • Regularly seek feedback from First Peoples employed or engaged with council about your organisation’s cultural safety while being aware of cultural loading.

Case Studies

The City of Yarra requires all new councillors to undergo cultural safety training from Traditional Owners soon after their election. It can take time to build organisational cultural safety and competency, and so prioritising such training early in a councillor’s term can ensure that important reconciliation and self-determination work can flow smoothly through elections. Strong partnerships with First Peoples’ communities take time and council’s should adopt processes that ensure relationships are not affected by four-year council terms.

Key Contacts

Introduction to Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training | Victorian Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)

Cultural Awareness Training | Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)

Cultural Awareness Training | Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd. (VACSAL)

Building Aboriginal Cultural Safety in the Workplace | Koorie Heritage Trust

links & resources

Building Blocks to Organisational Cultural Responsiveness Toolkit | Inner North West Primary Care Partnership

Identifying and Addressing Organisational White Privilege | Bendigo Reconciliation Committee

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