Creating a culturally appropriate, safe and welcoming facility

What is culturally safe or “culturally appropriate” environment?

When thinking about what makes a facility or clinic welcoming or culturally safe, it is important to think not only about the visual aspect of a building, but to consider more holistically the physical, emotional and relational aspects of spaces as equally important to the environment.

The three elements of a culturally welcoming (or “culturally appropriate”) clinic include:

  • Physical – design, layout and appearance
  • Emotional – the feeling of being supported and cared for within the health service organisation
  • Relational – the quality of relationships developed with the workforce and other consumers.

Creating a welcoming environment requires one or more of the below.

  • A culturally competent workforce, providing culturally safe care.
  • Involvement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and community members in the design and creation of the environment.

Indications that a facility or clinic is culturally safe and welcoming may include some or more of the following elements:

  • Statement of recognition, such as a plaque; printed words on glass doors and pavement; or artwork telling the story of place, traditional ownership, individuals or significant events
  • Designated spaces for women, men, family gatherings and/or ceremonies
  • Evidence that privacy and cultural family relationship taboos are respected
  • Access to outdoor spaces and fresh air 
  • Positioning of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff at the entrance or reception
  • Availability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison officer(s) or health worker(s)
  • Signage in local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
  • Written materials and posters translated into local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages
  • Clinic time allocated to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, their families and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce about their specific cultural needs.
  • Flexible visiting arrangements
  • Integration of traditional foods or establishing bush gardens on site
  • Information and support to find suitable accommodation, transport, social services
  • Assigned members of the workforce to coordinate links between patients’ family members and escorts, and primary care services
  • Interpreters available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and families
  • Policies, procedures or protocols on cultural diversity that cover the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families
  • Flying of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, and a policy on half-mast days, including the death of a community member
  • Evidence of celebrating important cultural events 
  • Information brochures that outline what to expect when visiting the organisation, and the services available to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and families
  • Survey results and reports on consumer satisfaction with the organisation’s actions to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • Information clearly available on how to provide feedback anonymously
  • Information on the Australian Charter Healthcare Rights 
  • Evidence that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are involved in the development and implementation of the strategies, and that their views are sought routinely, particularly when the effectiveness of welcoming strategies are evaluated.
  • Evidence of Indigenous Board members or other committees representing local viewpoints.