1.44     Throughout this Discussion Paper a number of terms or phrases are frequently used. These are summarised here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

1.45     The Terms of Reference refer to ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and the ALRC has adopted this phrase throughout this Discussion Paper. The ALRC acknowledges the diversity of cultures, traditional practices and differences across communities and the various clan, language and skin groups represented throughout Australia and the Torres Strait. In using the phrase ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’, the ALRC does not intend to diminish or deny the importance of this cultural and linguistic diversity.

1.46     Where possible, the ALRC has sought to relate data and analysis to specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or groups. However, the recognition of diversity is rarely apparent from data and analysis of persons involved in the criminal justice system. Data obtained by the ALRC rarely makes a distinction between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. This deficit has prevented the ALRC from identifying whether research and analysis would be as relevant to both groups or whether people from different Aboriginal cultural backgrounds may be represented differently in the criminal justice system.

1.47     The abbreviation ‘ATSI’ to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been used in some tables and graphs in the Discussion Paper.

‘Culturally appropriate’, ‘culturally competent’ and ‘culturally safe’

1.48     The Terms of Reference ask the ALRC to have regard to existing data and research in relation to, among other matters, the ‘availability and effectiveness of culturally appropriate programs that intend to reduce Aboriginal; and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration’.

1.49     Throughout the Discussion Paper, the ALRC uses the terms ‘culturally appropriate’, ‘culturally competent’, and ‘culturally safe’ in relation to programs, projects, pilots, initiatives and reforms. In using these terms, the ALRC is referring to the requirement that matters be developed, organised and implemented with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and, where possible, facilitated and owned by those communities.

1.50     These terms lack an objective definition. The Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos, describes cultural safety as

an environment that is safe for people: where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning, living and working together with dignity and truly listening.[46]

1.51     Maryann Bin-Sallik suggests that

[c]ultural safety extends beyond cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity. It empowers individuals and enables them to contribute to the achievement of positive outcomes. It encompasses a reflection on individual cultural identity and recognition of the impact of personal culture on professional practice.[47]

1.52     Jackomos has suggested that, for Aboriginal people, cultural safety and security requires:

  • Environments of cultural resilience within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;

  • Cultural competency by those who engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.[48]

1.53     The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has defined cultural competence as meaning ‘a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or amongst professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations’.[49]

1.54     COAG has suggested that cultural competence is

essential for services and programmes offering support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners and ex-prisoners. Such prisoners and ex-prisoners may lack a level of bi-cultural understanding to be able to switch between Indigenous and mainstream ways of thinking, acting and communicating. This creates an additional level of disadvantage, particularly when dealing with sensitive issues or stressful situations.[50]

1.55     While the ALRC relies upon the definitions above in its understanding of the terms ‘culturally appropriate’, ‘culturally competent’, and ‘culturally safe’, the specific use of these terms by the ALRC in the Discussion Paper is in reference only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.