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Teaching and Learning

Cultural Competency - Strategies and Approaches

This page describes a range of strategies and approaches currently used at SCU to support Cultural Competency (CC) and Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC).

Institutional support for CC & ICC at SCU

The Australian ICC framework works to support staff and students in developing and embedding ICC in the curriculum. This intention is reflected in various SCU initiatives. For example, Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples offers a range of resources to support ICC institutionally, including working with schools to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into curricula.

HR Services has developed a corporate training program (staff only) in CC that remains particularly sensitised to the importance of ICC. You can access the program through the SCU Professional Learning Resource Centre (staff only).

The Equity and Diversity Office has implemented the Courageous Conversations about Race (CCAR) Program. The CCAR Program moves beyond cultural awareness to a cultural competency model. The interactive workshops aim to move participants beyond consciousness to action. The workshops develop capacity through an active and sustained engagement with race at both an intellectual and emotional level.

SCU acknowledges nationally significant Indigenous events - Anniversary of the Apology To The Stolen Generations, Close The Gap, Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week at each campus. These events are organised by the Southern Cross University Indigenous Events Coordinating Committee (SCUIECC) which is a coalition of academic and professional staff, students and community members. Staff and students can increase their ICC by participating in the committee and / or attending these events. They are included in the University's Staff Year Planner and academics (in particular) are invited to encourage their students to attend / contribute.

Also, the University celebrates cultural diversity at each campus on Harmony Day and at Diversity Week (which includes the Fusion Festival). These events, led by the Equity & Diversity Office, are also organised by a coalition of academic and professional staff, students and community members. Staff and students can increase their CC by participating in the committee and / or attending these events. They are included in the University's Staff Year Planner and academics (in particular) are invited to encourage their students to attend / contribute.

Embedding CC in a first year Health Studies Units

At SCU, Graduate Attribute 7 must be explicitly reflected in course and unit structure, content and assessment of learning activities. All units should be culturally safe for participants. That means, for example, not expecting or allowing any student to 'speak' for an entire culture.

Here are some strategies applied by first year health units which encourage students to learn to work in ways that are culturally appropriate for diverse groups and effective in differing contexts:

  • The units offer activities that helped learners identify their cultural background and to reflect on biases and perspectives. An example is sharing family histories and viewpoints on topical issues.
  • Student learning can be extended by researching and/or role playing differing cultural group's experiences as patients in the health care system.
  • Learners review how alternate cultural frameworks have offered effective new solutions to discipline based problems ( e.g. thinking about different models of healthcare in the world).
  • Students can bring these new skills in activities that build and test their cross cultural communication skills. An example is via a simulation where they must decide how to repackage health advice for a range of patients from differing cultural groups.
  • Include learning activities that canvass a variety of approaches to healing and health.

To deepen ICC in students, the activities listed above could be focused on Indigenous Australian stories, health practices, knowledge, history and current lives.

Internationalisation of the Curriculum could be embedded if the focus was the 'culturally inclusive' aspect of internationalising, rather than just a more international flavour. For example, simply using case studies from a broader range of countries would not be enough. Better to ask a diverse group of learners to explain to each other the how case studies drawn from cultures can bring insight and new ways of 'seeing'.

Key steps in embedding CC & ICC

Cultural Competency is a layered skill set, and as such requires scaffolding. It's helpful to think of the following strategies:

  • Include foundational content in learning activities in compulsory first year units.
  • Incorporate reflective activities to promote understanding of students own cultural position, and to think about concepts of whiteness and privilege.
  • Revisit and extend on this material in later years of the course.
  • Involve community based organisations, groups and staff members, in curriculum development and renewal processes as they can bring valuable insights.