Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Competence

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competence in higher education is about knowledge and understanding of the diversity of Australian Indigenous cultures, an awareness of protocols, as well as the capacity to engage, research and work effectively in cross cultural contexts enhancing social cohesion and wellbeing.

The University of Sydney is committed to a whole of institution approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competence that takes into account teaching and learning strategies and professional development. This commitment has led to the creation of the National Centre for Cultural Competence which has the specific goal to address cultural competence at the University. As part of this, the Kinship Module has been developed to support our learning in this area.

Awareness of cultures is not enough to ensure changes to behaviour and attitudes. Cultural awareness and cultural safety are foundation concepts, while cultural competence expands on these to encompass the knowledge, skills and behaviour for acceptance and respect of cultural difference, in addition to critical reflection on assumptions leading to consideration for change and improvement to practice.

In a report by the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (2007:29) one of the factors impacting the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples completing university programs is “The general lack of knowledge, understanding, recognition and respect by universities of Indigenous knowledges, cultures and communities.” The Wingara Mura strategy is being implemented to address this finding and to effect positive change.