Culturally Safe Libraries

Why are we doing this project?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the traditional owners and custodians of Australia. Dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from country, the dispersal and relocation of communities, the erosion of traditional customs and languages, and the removal of children from families, have resulted in the disconnection of generations of families from traditional homelands, languages and culture.

The information held in NSLA libraries is a powerful resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples wishing to reconnect with family and community and to strengthen personal and cultural identities. Due to the sensitivity and significance of collection materials held in NSLA Libraries, there is a responsibility to ensure there are policies in place that deliver culturally respectful services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This will be part of a national effort to provide culturally safe public spaces and services in libraries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and a supportive workplace for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff where they are able to confidently draw strength in their identity, culture and community.

What is cultural safety?

Providing an onsite and online environment that is emotionally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and clients; where people feel supported, can express themselves and their culture, history and identity with dignity and pride. An environment which fosters shared respect, meaning, knowledge and an opportunity to learn together without judgement.

What is Indigenous cultural competency?

The ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There are three core competencies:

  • Knowing: Gaining knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, customs, histories, and place-based circumstances. Understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ current and past interactions with government.
  • Doing: Taking action in a culturally sensitive way.
  • Being: Demonstrating authentic respect for culture in all interactions. Being aware of personal values and biases and their impact. Having integrity and cultural sensitivity in decision-making.

Read more about Indigenous cultural competency principles for NSLA libraries.

Core cultural competency training and resources will be available to staff at NSLA libraries at all employment levels, areas of responsibility and activity in 2019-2021, as a practical commitment to respectful interactions and collaborations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families, community groups and organisations. All staff are expected to complete Core Cultural Learning, an online course developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

The program will:

  1. Provide accredited online core cultural learning, local perspectives, and role-specific training
  2. Ensure that the voices and views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations are considered and incorporated in the design, delivery and evaluation of Library programs, services and facilities.
  3. Embed the ATSILIRN protocols to make culturally informed approaches to collection management, description, access and use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection materials endorsed practice for NSLA.

Timeline

In the first half of 2019 a small group of staff from each library participated in the first round of accredited online core cultural learning – to test the roll-out and local components. Throughout 2019-2021, all staff will participate in this core program.

Role-specific training for information services and collection management staff will take place in 2020.