Objective: Access barriers to health care for minority populations has been a feature of medical, health and social science literature for over a decade. Considerations of cultural barriers have featured in this literature, but definitions of what constitutes a cultural barrier have varied. In this paper, data from recent interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Aboriginal Health Workers and other non-Indigenous health professionals in north-west Queensland assist to refine the meaning of this term and uncovered other issues disguised as ‘cultural’ difference. Design: Semistructured interviews with community and health professionals. Setting: Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia. Participants: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal Health Workers and other health professionals in Mount Isa between 2007 and 2009. Results: Cultural barriers were considered differently by Aboriginal patients and health practitioners. While Aboriginal patients focused heavily on social relationships and issues of respect and trust, most practitioners seemed more focused on making Aboriginal people feel comfortable with changes to physical environments and systems, with less emphasis on creating strong interpersonal relationships. Conclusions: For Aboriginal patients the focus on interpersonal relationships between themselves and health practitioners is paramount. Creating comforting physical environments and systems that are easier to navigate do assist in overcoming cultural barriers, but are often seen as little more than token gestures if trusting interpersonal relationships are not formed between patient and practitioner.