I was happy in my retirement and living on the old-age pension with my husband when I had a call in early 2009 from Curtin University requesting a meeting to discuss cultural safety in Aboriginal health. You can imagine my surprise! Here I was, a 70-year-old retiree, content in the knowledge that I had worked and studied my way up from being a housewife and mother to being a respected Doctor of Philosophy, writer, and promoter of Aboriginal issues through my writing. I was full of curiosity to know the reason for this out-of-the-blue telephone call.
Arrangements were made to meet with Associate Professor (now Professor) Sandra Thompson to discuss her proposition. I was to work as an Associate Professor for Cultural Safety in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University’s Centre for International Health, which had recently added Indigenous Health to its program. I started work there in April 2009.
The cultural safety for indigenous health movement began in New Zealand during the 1980s when a Maori student nurse, Irihapeti Ramsden, queried hospital policy on standard nursing practices by saying “You people talk about legal safety, ethical safety, and safety in clinical practices and a safe knowledge base, but what of cultural safety?”1 Clearly, cultural safety was not on the nursing agenda. Irihapeti Ramsden instigated the cultural safety movement in New Zealand. Although the Treaty of Waitangi recognised the Maori as being the first people of their country, Maori nurses knew that the Treaty was not being honoured in the nursing fraternity.1 Maori nurses and patients were being isolated from mainstream nursing practices and treated as second-class citizens because of their cultural differences. Maori nurses wanted to be acknowledged and treated as equals in the workplace. The Maori nurses and patients had strong cultural ties and began to question why they should maintain nursing practices that were contrary to their own cultural beliefs and customs. Gradually the concerns of Maori nursing staff and patients in hospitals were recognised, and cultural safety is now embedded in most schools of nursing in New Zealand. The Nursing Council of New Zealand has amended its standards for registration to include safe cultural practices