Toward cultural safety: an exploration of the concept for social work education with Canadian aboriginal peoples

Milliken, Eveline Jean. (2008) Toward cultural safety: an exploration of the concept for social work education with Canadian aboriginal peoples. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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"Cultural safety," a concept originating in healthcare settings in Aotearoa/New Zealand, is explored with Aboriginal social work graduates in a Canadian context. Cultural safety is defined as: -- that state of being in which the [individual] knows emotionally that her/his personal wellbeing, as well as social and cultural frames of reference, are acknowledged - even if not fully understood. Furthermore, she/he is given active reason to feel hopeful that her/his needs and those of her/his family members and kin will be accorded dignity and respect. (Fulcher, 1998, p. 333) -- The research site was the University of Manitoba's Inner City Social Work Program (ICSWP). Given a history of painful experiences within mainstream Canadian educational institutions, this study adopted an empowerment anti-oppressive perspective. Qualitative participatory research approaches and grounded theory methods were used. Data were gathered through conversations with thirteen graduates and non-graduates about the meaning, presence, or absence of cultural safety in their social work education; what contributed to their sense of cultural safety; and what might have added to that sense. Themes arising from individual conversations were reviewed and augmented by two participant talking circles. An Advisory Group of Aboriginal social work instructors provided cultural guidance throughout the study. -- The concept of cultural safety was found to be useful for assessing the relationships between people of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal culture in this social work education setting. The concept helped graduates to name and locate nuances in relationships that otherwise went unnamed. Participants identified three experiences of unsafety which they faced regularly: they live in two worlds with a consequent partializing of their experience; they live with the pervasive, pernicious, and persistent shadow of racism; and they live in a state of constant vigilance in which various forms of silence play key protective roles and means of resistance. Conversely, participants described three dynamics contributing to cultural safety. These were the value of an inclusive spirituality, the importance of valuing individuals as whole persons, and the priority of relationships in social work classrooms. Implications and recommendations for shifting mind-sets, faculty hiring and preparation, student-faculty boundaries, curricula, student intakes, and non-academic supports are suggested.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 11046
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 253-282).
Department(s): Social Work, School of
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Cultural awareness--Canada; Minorities in social work education--Canada.

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