Aboriginal Culture Reflection Essay

A Reflection And Comparative Analysis Of The Australian Aboriginals And The Chinese Culture

A Reflection and Comparative Analysis of the Australian Aboriginals and the Chinese Culture

In our society, having good understanding of the different cultural value, rules and beliefs will enable us to effectively analyse situations in both an everyday or business sense. I will be comparing the similarities and differences in two different societies, the Chinese and Aboriginal Australian people, both having established social values through long ancestral history. By exploring the theoretical dimensions of Universalism verses particularism continuing with looking at collectivism, I hope to consolidate my belief that understanding people is essential in everyday situation.

Since Australia is an egalitarian society, universalism plays an important role in our society. Universalism states that rules, laws, and values can be equally and fairly applied to all people with various cultures and background. (Sanders W 2001) Contrastingly, our local indigenous populations have a different opinion on whether all human rights are universal. Aborigines are often plagued with discriminatory problems and health related issues. An Aboriginal lawyer Noel Pearson voiced that the social security system in Australia has caused harm to their society. Pearson argues that the norms of universalism only applies and is best for the non-aborigine Australians, whereas the rules of the "social welfare" were not written with consideration for them, thus indigenous people have major issues of adaptation and interpretation due to social and economic differences. (Sanders W 2001)

China is a particularistic culture where the norms consist of relationships and different circumstances in order to decide right or wrong. (Deresky H 2010) A Chinese business would bases their trust on the relationships built between the partners. If strict laws and regulations were involved, it would offend the partners because it creates a lack of trust between businesses. This highlights the importance of relationships in the Chinese society. (Gallo F 2009) Based on my experience living in China, it was acceptable to provide gifts when conducting a business meeting. This can be interpreted as bribery in a universalistic society and ultimately unethical. But in China this was seen as building a better relationship under particular circumstances, and it's a right to do so.

The universalistic approach applies rules without considering individual circumstances, therefore creating problems of inequality and degradation which the Aborigines face in contrast to the rest of the Australian population. (Smith S 2008) Whereas if a particularistic approach that would be built on connections and friendship, would prove to be more suitable for the Aboriginal culture. Particularist cultures have evolved with the reliance on friends and relationships in order to survive. (Fan B 2008) The...

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Understanding culture in practice: reflections of an Australian Indigenous nurse

Renee Cecilia Blackman
CNC Chronic Disease, Mount Isa Hospital and Community Service; School of Public Health Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services and Indigenous Health Unit; Australian Rural Leadership Fellow, Mt Isa QLD


Most health care organisations aspire to develop a culturally competent workforce. Australian nurses are bound by professional standards to achieving this goal and there is a clear commitment by lead organisations to deliver nursing care that is mindful about respecting cultural diversity (ANMC, 2006). The development of a nursing workforce that is equipped with knowledge and an embedded attitude of cultural sensitivity and safety is a nursing workforce that will bring about positive change and improved consumer experiences (Chenoweth, Jeon and Burke, 2006). This paper will reflect on current discussion about cultural competence from the perspective of an Indigenous nurse, and present a personal learning pathway, toward a goal of cultural competence.



cross cultural nursing care, cultural competence, Indigenous nurse

Article Text

I come to this work as a Registered Nurse with a keen interest in cultural competence. I am a descendent descendant of Aboriginal Australia and proudly belong to the Mooloolah tribe, Undambi people of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. As a person who identifies as an Australian Aboriginal, I have always been interested in the cross cultural dynamic that encompasses my everyday interaction with fellow Australians. I have observed both successful and unsuccessful demonstrations of cultural competence; and like Jirwe (2008) I believe that cultural competence in nursing is essential in addressing health care disparities amongst the vulnerable populations within a community.

Indigenous Australians are one of the most marginalised and vulnerable populations in the world. To improve health care outcomes for Indigenous Australians, a demonstrated aptitude for cultural competence is essential (Australian Government, 2009). There are many barriers in to achieving this goal, and none are more influential than institutional racism. Henry (2004) states that institutional racism is embedded in the Australian health system, and according to Ramsden (2002), institutional racism as well as individual ethnocentrism is responsible for the accepted current socialisation of young health professionals that leads to the perpetuationng negative attitudes, stereotypes and behaviour toward vulnerable and culturally diverse populations. It is the responsibility of health professionals, including nurses, to work toward positive change in this area and challenge attitudes of racism in individual practice as well as within their organisations.

Nurses have been concerned about how persons from culturally diverse backgrounds experience the health system, and how nurses can initiate care that is more culturally sensitive. Over the past decades a discourse about cultural competence in nursing has emerged. The aim of this paper is to contribute to current debate, from an Australian Indigenous nurse's point of view ,about the importance of reflective practice in the delivery of culturally competent nursing practice. In doing so, I will briefly discuss the current discourse around cultural competence in nursing, before moving on to ways in which I have incorporated a model of reflection and learning within my own nursing practice to better meet the needs of culturally diverse health consumers.

Cultural competence in nursing
Madeleine Leininger's Trans-cultural nursing model challenged nurses to become trans-cultural practitioners in order to more appropriately meet the needs of people from different cultures when they were seeking or needing nursing care (Clarke, 2009). Leininger (1988) believes that nurses must acquire knowledge of the ‘others' culture in order to provide care that is culturally congruent for the client. As an Indigenous New Zealand nurse, Irihapeti Ramsden challenged this notion. Ramsden (2002) developed a model for culturally safe practice that positioned the nurse as the ‘other' rather than the patient. Ramsden (2002) postulated that culturally safe nurses work toward self awareness rather than cultural congruence in nursing practice, and become respectful and sensitive to difference. This model of cultural competence continues to develop and emerge as a critical perspective on how culture influences not only the way people receive and experience care, but more importantly, the way nurses deliver care to health consumers (Ramsden, 2002). From an Australian Indigenous nurse viewpoint this framework must be considered when firstly, developing strategies to better serve Indigenous populations; and secondly when seeking to ensure the provision of culturally competent health care.

What does Australia define as cultural competence and how are we responding?
Australian authors have contributed to a broad discussion about trans-cultural nursing and cultural competence in Australia (Omeri, 2003, 2004; Nguyen, 2008; Johnstone and Kanitsaki, 2007). While much of this literature focuses more on perspectives and concerns about migrants to Australia, they still provide valuable insights that in some ways resonate with the experience and needs of Indigenous Australians. These Australian writers have suggested that it is time to move forward and respect the health consumer's culture and identity and incorporate this consideration into all aspects of nursing care (Chenoweth et al., 2006).

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View references


Australian Government. (2009). Closing the Gap on Indigenous Disadvantage: The Challenge for Australia. Retrieved from http://fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/pubs/general/Documents/closing_the_gap/default.htm

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council. (2005). Code of Ethics for Nurses in Australia. Retrieved from http://www.nrgpn.org.au/index.php?element=ANMC+Code+of+Ethics

Blackman, R. (2009). Knowledge for practice: Challenges in culturally safe nursing practice. Contemporary Nurse, 32(1-2), 211-214.

Cass, A., Lowell, A., Christie, M., Snelling, P., Flack, M., Marrnganyin, B., & Brown, I. (2002). Sharing the true stories: Improving communication between Aboriginal patients and healthcare workers. Medical Journal of Australia, 176, 466-470.

Chenowethm, L., Jeon, Y., Goff, M., & Burke, C. (2006). Cultural competency and nursing care:an Australian perspective. International Nursing Review, 53, 34-40.

Clarke, P., McFarland, M., Andrews, M & Leininger, M. (2009). Caring: Some reflection on the impact of culture care theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 22(3), 233-239.

Henry, B., Houston, S., & Mooney, G. (2004). Institutional racism in Australian healthcare: a plea for decency. Medical Journal of Australia, 180, 517-520.

Jirwe, M. (2008). Cultural competence in nursing. Unpublished PhD thesis, The Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Nursing, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Maltby, H. (2008). A reflection on culture over time by Baccalaureate nursing students.  Contemporary Nurse, 28, 111-118.

Mohammadi, N., Evans, D., & Jones, T. (2007). Muslims in Australian hospitals: The clash of cultures, International Journal of Nursing Practice, 13, 310-315.

Omeri, A. (2004) Cultural diversity: A challenge for community nurses. Contemporary Nurse, 17, 183-191.

Ramsden, I. (2002). Cultural Safety and Nursing Education in Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu. Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.

Sonn, C., . & Green, M. (2006). Disrupting the dynamics of oppression in intercultural research and practice. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 16, 337-346.

The Nguygen, H. (2004). Patient centred care: Cultural safety in indigenous health. Australian Family Physician, 37(17).

Thompson, N. (2005). Cultural respect and related concepts: a brief summary of the literature. Australian Indigenous Health Bulletin, 5(4).

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