Achieving cultural safety for Australia's First Peoples: A review of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency-registered health practitioners' Codes of Conduct and Codes of Ethics

Eleanor Milligan, Roianne West, Vicki Saunders, Andrea Bialocerkowski, Debra Creedy, Fiona Rowe Minniss, Kerry Hall, Stacey Vervoort

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Abstract

Objective. Health practitioners' Codes of Conduct and Codes of Ethics articulate practice standards across multiple domains, including the domain of cultural safety. As key tools driving individual practice and systems reform, Codes are integral to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is, therefore, critical that their contents specify meaningful cultural safety standards as the norm for institutional and individual practice. This research assessed all Codes for cultural safety specific content. Methods. Following the release of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency's (Ahpra) Health and Cultural Safety strategy 2020-25, the 16 Ahpra registered health practitioner Board Codes of Conduct and professional Codes of Ethics were analysed by comparing content to Ahpra's new cultural safety objectives. Two Codes of Conduct, Nursing and Midwifery, met these objectives. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners Code partially met these objectives. Results. Most Codes of Conduct (14 of 16) conflated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities undermining the sovereignty of Australia's First Peoples. Eleven professions had a Code of Ethics, including the Physiotherapy Code of Conduct, which outlined the values and ethical principles of practice commonly associated with a Code of Ethics. Of the 11 professions with a Code of Ethics, two (Pharmacy and Psychology) articulated specific ethical responsibilities to First Peoples. Physiotherapy separately outlined cultural safety obligations through their reconciliation action plan (RAP), meeting all Ahpra cultural safety objectives. The remaining eight advocated respect of culture generally rather than respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures specifically. Conclusions. The review identified multiple areas to improve the codes for cultural safety content for registered health professions, providing a roadmap for action to strengthen individual and systems practice while setting a clear regulatory standard to ensure culturally safe practice becomes the new norm. It recommends the systematic updating of all professional health practitioner Board Codes of Conduct and professional Codes of Ethics based on the objectives outlined in Ahpra's Cultural Safety Strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-406
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Health Review
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

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