Understanding and working with different worldviews to co-design cultural security in clinical mental health settings to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients
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Background: Creating the conditions for meaningful relationships is essential to understanding Aboriginal worldviews and co-designing ways of working to achieve better health outcomes. Non-Aboriginal health professionals struggle to recognise the importance of social relationships to Aboriginal peoples and tensions emerge due to these different worldviews informed by different ontologies and epistemologies. This is more so in clinical settings where training and models of care are often inadequate for working with Aboriginal people. The impact of different understandings of relationships on the provision of health services to Aboriginal peoples remains under-researched. There is a critical need to reassess the way clinicians are supported by their organisations to engage with Aboriginal clients in competent and meaningfully ways.
Methods: The paper provides key insights into an Aboriginal-led participatory action research project and the work of Aboriginal Elder co-researchers with non-Aboriginal mainstream service staff to better understand the importance of social relationships from an Aboriginal worldview. The paper critically engages literature on clinical service provision for Aboriginal peoples, along with an examination of the Australian Psychological Society Code of Conduct, to explore the tensions between professional training and the need to build relationships with Aboriginal clients.
Findings: Through the Elders, non-Aboriginal service staff have expanded their understanding of Aboriginal culture, kinship and the importance of country to Aboriginal wellbeing. The Elders mentored staff to unpack the tensions between worldviews in clinical settings. The research resulted in a co-designed culturally safe framework for non-Aboriginal practitioners, which is building confidence, capacity and competence to work in partnership with Aboriginal peoples. The framework emphasis the need for culturally safe models of care. The Elders have supported non-Aboriginal staff to sit between the two worldviews to develop ways to work with Aboriginal clients and shift mainstream models of mental health care to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal people.
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