FECCA – the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia – have produced a Guide to Cultural Competence in Australia. This lays out the foundations of Cultural Competence and gives an overview of what Cultural Competence training is available in Australia – albeit under a wide range of labels for the training.
‘… a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations’.
There is an organisational and an individual aspect to cultural competence. At the individual level, developing cultural competence requires acknowledgment of one’s own cultural assumptions, values and beliefs. It involves understanding that culture shapes worldview, and that individuals view the world differently based on their cultural background and related experiences.
Cultural competence includes an awareness that individuals have different needs because of their cultural and linguistic background. Improving cultural competence ensures better and more effective communication with individuals from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Cultural competence at the organisational level involves developing systems, policies and processes that ensure cultural diversity and difference are considered in all aspects of an organisation’s work. Organisations with high levels of cultural competence foster successful, diverse workforces, using cultural difference as a strength for more effective decisionmaking, innovation and adaptability. They also understand the needs and preferences of a diverse range of consumers and provide products and services that are appropriate, accessible and inclusive.
As culture is a dynamic, complex and constantly changing construct, there is no point at which cultural competence is ‘achieved’. Developing individual or organisational cultural competence is an open-ended process of improving attributes, skills, degrees of knowledge, policies and strategies which together enhance the ability to communicate across cultures. Cultural competence is developed on a spectrum, rather than through mastery of a skillset or practice. Developing cultural competence requires a commitment to ongoing learning, reflection and diverse and inclusive practices.
A workforce that reflects Australia’s diverse cultural and linguistic society leads to increased levels of cultural competency. However, organisations need to improve cultural competency to recruit and support a diverse workforce in the first instance. Cultural competence training, policies and processes are a means through which an organisation can improve its cultural competence and develop and support diversity in the workplace.