Graduate Attributes are the qualities, skills and understandings a university community agrees its students should develop during their time with the institution.

Bowden, (2000).

Graduate Attribute 7: Cultural Competency

This page describes a range of strategies and approaches currently used at SCU to support Cultural Competency (CC) and Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC).

Institutional support for CC & ICC at SCU

The Australian ICC framework works to support staff and students in developing and embedding ICC in the curriculum. This intention is reflected in various SCU initiatives. For example, offers a range of resources to support ICC institutionally, including working with schools to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into curricula.

HR Services has developed a corporate training program (staff only) in CC that remains particularly sensitised to the importance of ICC. You can access the program through the SCU Professional Learning Resource Centre (staff only).

The Equity and Diversity Office has implemented the Courageous Conversations about Race (CCAR) Program. The CCAR Program moves beyond cultural awareness to a cultural competency model. The interactive workshops aim to move participants beyond consciousness to action. The workshops develop capacity through an active and sustained engagement with race at both an intellectual and emotional level.

SCU acknowledges nationally significant Indigenous events - Anniversary of the Apology To The Stolen Generations, Close The Gap, Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week at each campus. These events are organised by the Southern Cross University Indigenous Events Coordinating Committee (SCUIECC) which is a coalition of academic and professional staff, students and community members. Staff and students can increase their ICC by participating in the committee and / or attending these events. They are included in the University's Staff Year Planner and academics (in particular) are invited to encourage their students to attend / contribute.

Also, the University celebrates cultural diversity at each campus on Harmony Day and at Diversity Week (which includes the Fusion Festival). These events, led by the Equity & Diversity Office, are also organised by a coalition of academic and professional staff, students and community members. Staff and students can increase their CC by participating in the committee and / or attending these events. They are included in the University's Staff Year Planner and academics (in particular) are invited to encourage their students to attend / contribute.

At SCU, Graduate Attribute 7 must be explicitly reflected in course and unit structure, content and assessment of learning activities. All units should be culturally safe for participants. That means, for example, not expecting or allowing any student to 'speak' for an entire culture.

Here are some strategies applied by first year health units which encourage students to learn to work in ways that are culturally appropriate for diverse groups and effective in differing contexts:

  • The units offer activities that helped learners identify their cultural background and to reflect on biases and perspectives. An example is sharing family histories and viewpoints on topical issues.
  • Student learning can be extended by researching and/or role playing differing cultural group's experiences as patients in the health care system.
  • Learners review how alternate cultural frameworks have offered effective new solutions to discipline based problems ( e.g. thinking about different models of healthcare in the world).
  • Students can bring these new skills in activities that build and test their cross cultural communication skills. An example is via a simulation where they must decide how to repackage health advice for a range of patients from differing cultural groups.
  • Include learning activities that canvass a variety of approaches to healing and health.

To deepen ICC in students, the activities listed above could be focused on Indigenous Australian stories, health practices, knowledge, history and current lives.

Internationalisation of the Curriculum could be embedded if the focus was the 'culturally inclusive' aspect of internationalising, rather than just a more international flavour. For example, simply using case studies from a broader range of countries would not be enough. Better to ask a diverse group of learners to explain to each other the how case studies drawn from cultures can bring insight and new ways of 'seeing'.

Cultural Competency (CC) is defined as "an ability to engage with diverse cultural and Indigenous perspectives in both global and local settings" (SCU Graduate Attribute 7). While CC is not a learning strategy or a curriculum design approach, there are a range of resources (outlined below) that can help students and staff develop this capability.

Embedding CC in teaching can be a challenge for teachers as it can prove tricky to really understand and integrate, on a personal and professional level. It involves getting to grips with four key domains: These are:

  • Being aware of one's own culturally bound perspective and of the ways that it shapes your attitudes, biases, preferences, knowledge's and practices
  • Knowledge of cultural perspectives and practices that differ to your own
  • Valuing cultural differences and diversity per se, rather than specific cultures
  • Effective cross-cultural communication skills.

GA7 specifically references Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC). At SCU, this translates to:

  • Informed understanding of Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and current realities;
  • Awareness of Indigenous protocols and preferences;
  • An ability to engage with and work effectively in Indigenous contexts, in line with the expectations of Indigenous Australian peoples.

Cultural Competence can be understood as a staged process, moving along a continuum from culturally damaging ways of being, toward cultural competence (or even transcultural competence). It can be helpful to reflect on the history of your discipline in relation to marginalised cultural groups, especially Indigenous Australian Peoples. This can inform learning design in units or courses, day to day teaching, and assist students to become culturally competent professionals and practitioners.

National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities. Universities Australia, 2011.

Grote, E. 2008 Principles and Practices of Cultural Competency: A Review of the Literature, prepared for the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council.

Cultural Competency is a layered skill set, and as such requires scaffolding. It's helpful to think of the following strategies:

  • Include foundational content in learning activities in compulsory first year units.
  • Incorporate reflective activities to promote understanding of students own cultural position, and to think about concepts of whiteness and privilege.
  • Revisit and extend on this material in later years of the course.
  • Involve community based organisations, groups and staff members, in curriculum development and renewal processes as they can bring valuable insights.

Good Practice Report: Assuring Graduate Outcomes: Australian Learning and Teaching Council
Provides useful outcomes and good practices from ALTC projects and fellowships on assuring graduate outcomes.

What is Indigenous Cultural Competency: Edith Cowan University
A brief but useful overview of Indigenous Cultural Competence

Indigenous Cultural Competency: Curtin University
A library guide that offers access to a wealth of Australian research on embedding Indigenous Cultural Competency

Cultural Competency (CC):
Knowledge and acceptance of difference, respect and recognition of other cultures, knowing your own 'lens' and valuing difference in society

HR corporate training program in CC

(Please note the link above is to Blackboard so you require staff login)

Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC): 
Using your CC awareness with specific reference to  Australian Indigenous Peoples

HR corporate training program in CC

(Please note the link above is to Blackboard so you require staff login)

Community Engaged Learning (CEL):  
Taking learning into the workplace, this may be practical or through focussed activities. Integrating CC and ICC into workplace learning through directed activities and practical experiences.
CEL policy   
TT page on CEL
Cultural Inclusiveness: 
Using CC and ICC skills in all aspects of teaching and learning. Encouraging students to develop their cultural awareness through activities that make and encourage respect for diversity and mindfulness of bias (conscious and unconscious)
Internationalisation of Curriculum (IOC): 
Working with sensitivity, respect and awareness of global international and multicultural needs to incorporate CC and ICC, as required, in teaching design and practice.
Page on   
IoC sub clause in SCU Learning, Teaching and Curriculum Policy

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