The Characteristics of culturally competent maternity care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

This document identifies the characteristics of culturally competent maternity care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as required under action 2.2 of the National Maternity Services Plan.

Page last updated: 2012

Date of publication: 2012

Word version: The characteristics of culturally competent maternity care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (Word 199 KB)

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Executive summary

A culturally competent workforce is recognised as a priority reform area in Closing the gap in Indigenous life outcomes (COAG, 2010). The development of organisational, systemic and individual cultural competence is essential to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people using a health service are treated in a respectful and safe manner that secures their trust in the capacity of the service to meet their needs (Reibel & Walker, 2010).

This document aims to identify the characteristics of culturally competent maternity care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as required under Action 2.2 in the National Maternity Services Plan (NMSP) (AHMAC 2011).

Following a review of the literature and selected stakeholder consultations, the characteristics of effective culturally competent care in maternity care were identified under the following headings:

  • Physical environment and infrastructure
  • Specific Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander program
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce
  • Continuity of care and carer
  • Collaborating with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and other agencies
  • Communication, information sharing and transfer of care
  • Staff attitudes and respect
  • Cultural education programs
  • Relationships
  • Informed choice and right of refusal
  • Tools to measure cultural competence
  • Culture specific guidelines
  • Culturally appropriate and effective health promotion and behaviour change activities
  • Engaging consumers and clinical governance.
It is emphasised that the indicators provided in this report are preliminary in nature and require future development and testing in line with 'middle year' activities provided in the NMSP. There is also current work on measuring cultural competence being progressed by other sub-committees of AHMAC that align with the indicators outlined in this report. Further development of the indicators should include partnerships with key stakeholders including: the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH); the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO); The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officials' Network (NATSIHON); The National Advisory Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information and Data (NAGATSIHID); and leading individual Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander academics and experts.