Is there Cultural Safety in Australian Universities?

Judith Rochecouste, Rhonda Oliver, Debra Bennell


This paper examines the cultural safety offered to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students within their university environments. In the context of this paper, cultural safety includes cultural competency, as recently subscribed by Universities Australia, and ‘extends beyond (to) cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity’ (Bin Sellik, 2003, p. 210) and includes putting in place explicit measures to address racism of all types.

Informing this study were interviews and an online survey conducted with Aboriginal students and staff members of Aboriginal centres which formed part of a larger study investigating the Transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students into Higher Education (Oliver et al., 2013a; 2013b). Their responses provided evidence suggesting overt and covert experiences of racism, exclusion and cultural isolation indicating there is still much to be done before cultural safety is truly attained in our universities. As such our findings support recommendations stemming from previous research indicating that cultural safety is an issue that needs to be brought to the attention of governing bodies within our higher education sector.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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