Home' Community Care Review : CCR May-Jun 2015 Contents Jenny Bray
engagement that the bicultural
worker was employed to develop in
the first place.
Planning service adaptations
based on adjustments such as
language and food relies on an
unspoken assumption that the
mainstream is static and largely
monocultural (Anglo-Celtic). In fact, the
mainstream is increasingly culturally diverse,
and cross-cultural environments are the
norm in everyday service delivery. A 2012
report by the National Institute of Labour
Studies identified that one in four workers
in community care is fluent in a language
other than English (this includes second
generation Australians who speak their
parent's first language as well as English).
This adds to the complexity of cross-
cultural contexts within community aged
care. Cultural diversity in your workforce
is a significant asset to an organisation.
A culturally diverse workforce assists an
organisation to achieve cultural safety for
Yet challenges will still be encountered.
An organisation wanting to move with the
reality that Australia is an increasingly
culturally diverse nation will need to
be prepared to engage in cross-cultural
dialogue and to change culturally, as much
as it is trying to influence others culturally.
For example, workers who share a
cultural background with their clients have
said in my training sessions that they can
be expected to participate in the cultural
life of the service user and their family in
ways that may stretch an organisation's
policies on professional boundaries.
Initiatives for wellness and reablement
will require organisations to innovate if
bicultural workers, the client, their family
and community have bound the notion of
'doing for' with their cultural expression of
filial piety and respecting elders.
Developing organisational cultural
competency should be a core continuous
quality improvement process. Cultural
competency refers to a set of congruent
attitudes, behaviours and policies that
come together to enable an agency and its
workers and volunteers to work effectively in
cross-cultural environments. To be effective,
cultural competency must exist throughout
the organisation -- from frontline workers
through to executive officers and boards;
from policies and procedures through
to work practices and workplace culture.
The goal is that system is able to step
beyond the bounds of a particular cultural
interpretation in order to work effectively in
any context of diversity.
Developing a cultural competency
plan means assessing and addressing
each expected outcome of the standards
according to the degree to which it could be
interpreted and achieved in diverse cultural
contexts. Organisations and the individuals
within them must develop the capacity to
do each of the following.
1. Value diversity
Examples at the individual level include
recognising that cultural diversity provides
benefits and strengths to society, and that
working in cross-cultural contexts is an
enriching life experience.
Examples at an organisational level
include actively seeking to develop a
culturally diverse board, workforce and
volunteer base; engaging with diverse
cultures within the community; and being
prepared to fundamentally diversify
2. Conduct a cultural self-assessment
Individual examples include recognising
that each of us has a culture and it shapes
our values, beliefs and view of the world.
When encountering cultural difference, it
means recognising that it is the client's
cultural view that prevails, and the worker
and organisation need to make adaptations.
Look to the cultural diversity clearing
houses and ethno-specific organisations for
examples of strategies for how to negotiate
tricky terrain such as where a cultural
view does not sit comfortably with, say, a
reablement strategy, or with non-negotiable
expressions of mainstream culture, such as
program guidelines, regulations or laws.
An organisational example would be
conducting a cultural competency audit or
self assessment. There are plenty of self-
assessment tools available (including from
the Australian context) to assist this process.
3. Manage the dynamics of difference
An individual example includes considering
cultural difference as being involved when
misunderstandings occur, or where the
client disengages. Working in community
care means being prepared to learn and
work within cultural interpretations that
may not be your own.
Organisational examples include being
prepared to grapple with the challenges
that cultural difference offers to long held
notions of 'business as usual'. And being
prepared to respond to the dynamics of
difference by amending policies or changing
customs and protocols that were never
previously thought of as being expressions
of a dominant culture.
4. Acquire and institutionalise
At the individual level keep learning about
different cultures -- particularly the cultures of
the clients you support. At the organisational
level, knowledge management will need to
extend to managing cultural knowledge. Keep
active connections with cultural communities
in the local area. Don't allow this important
aspect to be based on the interest of one
or two individuals, but a core networking
requirement of the organisation. Join your
local peak body representing the principles
of multiculturalism, or forming active
relationships and partnerships with ethno-
specific organisations and associations in
your local area.
5. Adapt to the contexts of the individuals
Put what you learn into practice at both the
individual and organisational level. If the
organisation has approached the expected
outcomes of community understanding and
engagement, and service user complaints
and feedback with the rigour of cultural
competency, then the service responses
will be obvious, although not necessarily
without challenge. n
Jenny Bray, director of Jenny Bray
Training & Consulting, has over 26 years'
experience working in the community
care sector. She is contactable on
Cultural diversity in
your workforce is a significant
asset to an organisation.
aaa community care review | 39
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