Culturally competent communication in Indigenous disability assessment: a qualitative study

Ferdinand, Angeline, Massey, Libby, Cullen, Jennifer, Temple, Jeromey, Meiselbach, Kristy, Paradies, Yin, Baynam, Gareth, Savarirayan, Ravi, and Kelaher, Margaret (2021) Culturally competent communication in Indigenous disability assessment: a qualitative study. International Journal for Equity in Health, 20. 68.

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Background: Indigenous people tend to exhibit a higher burden of disability than their non-Indigenous counterparts, and are often underserved by disability services. Engaging appropriately with Indigenous communities, families and individuals in the initial stages of disability assessment and planning is crucial in order to build trust and understanding of disability service models and ensure that Indigenous people receive support that is tailored to their needs and cultural realities. This article aims to identify key elements of culturally competent communication in Indigenous disability assessment and planning, and provide recommendations for strengthening capacity in this area.

Methods: This qualitative research was designed to involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at all stages and to reflect the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, people and families affected by disability and the community-controlled health sector. Semi-structured individual interviews were undertaken with staff implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (n = 4), NDIS participants (n = 24), disability support providers and organisational partners (n = 19) and Community Connectors (n = 8) in Queensland and the Northern Territory of Australia. Key themes derived from thematic analysis included appropriate and adequate engagement of individuals with disability and their families, the role of trusted relationships, and culturally safe and appropriate communication during planning meetings.

Results: Overall, the research findings highlight that a low level of cultural competence in the initial stages of the disability assessment and planning process exacerbated participant confusion and distrust towards assessment staff and the NDIS. Given difficulties in communication, participant understanding of the NDIS was generally limited. The necessity of culturally safe and appropriate use of interpreters was stressed, as was the role of trusted individuals, including existing service providers, Community Connectors and family members in providing a solid base for participant understanding of the NDIS.

Conclusions: Cultural competence in disability assessment and planning can be strengthened through multi-level engagement with the Aboriginal community-controlled sector and community leaders. Implementing mechanisms to enable the involvement of families, trusted service providers and Community Connectors can support a more meaningful understanding of individuals’ needs within their cultural context and in relation to their cultural roles.

Item ID: 70003
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1475-9276
Keywords: Australia, cultural competence, disability, Indigenous health
Copyright Information: © The Author(s). 2021 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2022 01:34
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