An essential skill in the provision of culturally appropriate services, cultural awareness entails an understanding of how a person's culture may inform their values, behaviour, beliefs and basic assumptions.
Cultural awareness recognises that we are all shaped by our cultural background, which influences how we interpret the world around us, perceive ourselves and relate to other people. You don't need to be an expert in every culture or have all the answers to be culturally aware; rather, cultural awareness helps you to explore cultural issues with your care recipients more sensitively.
Information about specific cultural practices will help to increase your cultural knowledge by providing an overview of cultural characteristics and issues. However, it is always important to identify individual needs and preferences and remember that no individual can be reduced to a set of cultural norms.
Within any culture, peoples' values, behaviour and beliefs can vary enormously. Differences may occur due to time of arrival in Australia, length of settlement, socio-economic background, level of education, rural or urban residence, identification with cultural and religious background, and different life experiences - including the experience of migration.
Cultural awareness entails an understanding of the migration process itself. Migration is a key influence on a person's life, with differing effects due to the different experiences of pre-migration, migration and resettlement.
While some migrants undergo a relatively easy transition, most migrants will undergo some - if not many - challenges in adjusting to life in a new country.
Some of the many post-migration stressors include: the stress of separation from homeland, family members, friends and support networks; racial discrimination; changes in lifestyle and socio-economic status; culture shock; language barriers; and the ongoing trauma of pre-migration experiences, which may have included war and political instability, physical and psychological abuse, and travelling as a refugee or living in a refugee camp.
- Be aware of your own cultural influences.
- Be aware of judging other people's behaviour and beliefs according to the standards of your own culture.
- Be aware of making assumptions about cultural influences and applying generalisations to individuals.
- Understand that the behaviour and beliefs of people within each culture can vary considerably.
- Understand that the extent to which people adopt practices of their new country and retain those from their cultural background can vary within communities, even within families.
- Understand that not all people identify with their cultural or religious background.
- Understand that culture itself is a fluid entity, undergoing transformations as a result of globalisation, migration and the diaspora influence.
- Increase your knowledge about different cultural practices and issues through cultural background information sessions and/or resources and cultural awareness training.
- Understand the importance of appropriate communication.