The “enhancing tertiary tutor's cultural safety” study: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural training for tutors of medical students


  • Frankie Merritt The School of Medicine, Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Jacqueline Savard School of Medicine, Faculty of Health, Deakin University
  • Pippa Craig The School of Medicine, Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Aline Smith The School of Medicine, Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia



Australia, ethnic groups, cultural diversity, racism, culture, cultural competency, professional education, problem-based learning, competency-based education, curriculum


Introduction: The inclusion of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health curriculum is an accreditation requirement of medical training. Healthcare provisions that are culturally safe may lead to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To achieve this, graduating doctors need to practise in a culturally-safe manner when dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This study considered the impact of a cultural diversity/cultural-safety training program for problem-based learning (PBL) tutors of medical students.

Methods: This qualitative study looked at the impact of a cultural-safety training workshop that was delivered to current PBL tutors of medical students. The tutors were invited to participate in a focus group 6 months post workshop and asked to reflect on the content and structure of the workshop, their role as a tutor and whether their workshop experience translated to their tutorial work.

Results: The three key thematic findings from the focus group were around reflections on the tutor’s own cultural competence, the perceived role of the tutor in the PBL environment and the interaction between the tutor and the student in their tutorial groups. Interestingly, across these findings, an “us versus them” construct was noted.

Conclusion: PBL tutors can be agents of change; they are uniquely positioned to enable future doctors to have a pivotal role in better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We found a single cultural-safety training event to be helpful but insufficient. Addressing systemic barriers towards institutional change across health professional education is required.

Author Biography

Frankie Merritt, The School of Medicine, Sydney, The University of Notre Dame Australia

Associate Professor Frankie Merritt, PhD
Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health


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How to Cite

Merritt, F., Savard, J., Craig, P., & Smith, A. (2018). The “enhancing tertiary tutor’s cultural safety” study: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural training for tutors of medical students. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 19(3), 11–22.