Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya: Keep on walking strong

Cultural safety in our professional capabilities

James Gerrard 74x74px
By James Gerrard
Section Editor
James is a podiatry graduate who has worked in public and private settings in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, and he now lectures at La Trobe University within the discipline of podiatry. James is also a current University of Newcastle PhD candidate, involved in research giving First Nations voice to foot health education, and the developing, delivering, and evaluating of cultural safety education for undergraduate podiatry students.

At the time of writing this in October 2021, recent weeks have seen the release of our profession’s new professional capabilities, which were published in September on the Podiatry Board of Australia’s website.


The Board completed a drafting and public consultation process of our new professional capabilities, which led to their release and imminent instatement. Our new professional capabilities will come into effect on 1 January 2022.


The ‘professional capabilities’ for both podiatrists and podiatric surgeons are available here.


Here are some key points regarding the thresholds that registered podiatrists will need to meet and maintain within our newly released professional capabilities relating to cultural safety:


  1. Being a professional and ethical practitioner: ‘Treat each patient with respect, dignity and care.’ This is enabled by displaying culturally safe practice and recognising and respecting ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ ways of knowing, being and doing in the context of history, culture and diversity.’
  2. Being a communicator and collaborator: ‘Examine and reflect on how one’s own culture influences perceptions and interactions with others from different cultures.’ The document lists enabling components for registered podiatrists be able to continually develop this capability. These are:
  • ‘understand the impact of systemic racism and recognise the influence of one’s own cultural identity on perceptions of and interactions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and people from other cultures’
  • ‘recognise different forms of cultural bias and associated stereotypes that impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; and practice in a culturally sensitive and inclusive manner’
  • ‘recognise the role of history and relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and white Australian society and how this has affected the inequitable distribution of privileges’


These professional capabilities provide a pathway for our individual and collective development of cultural safety and for the ongoing development of cultural safety as a fundamental skill of a podiatrist. 


Next steps

As we continue our pursuit of the Ahpra strategy to embed cultural safety into the health system, these new professional capabilities will add to our profession’s key achievements. 


These include recommending and advocating for changes to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to ensure consistency in cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 


We are signatories to the National Scheme’s strategy developed with the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations and individuals and, through the Podiatry Board of Australia, also proudly endorse it, see here.

All registered podiatrists across all settings are encouraged to thoroughly read over the ‘Approval of new professional capabilities for podiatrists and podiatric surgeons’ released under the umbrella of The National Scheme – available here with excerpts below.


‘At its July 2021 meeting, the Board approved new professional capabilities for podiatrists and podiatric surgeons. They will come into effect 1 January 2022.


The professional capabilities identify the knowledge, skills and professional attributes needed to safely and competently practice as a podiatrist or podiatric surgeon in Australia. They describe the threshold or minimum level of professional capability needed for registration as a podiatrist or podiatric surgeon.


The Podiatry Accreditation Committee developed the new professional capabilities for the Board, which included consulting widely with the profession and other stakeholders.


The new professional capabilities reflect contemporary podiatry and podiatric surgery practice in Australia. They are founded on person-centred, evidenced-based practice, and make cultural safety a key component of safe care, particularly with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


The professional capabilities will be used by the Board as a reference point for threshold capability when exercising its statutory functions.


The new professional capabilities will be published on the Board’s website in early September 2021, together with supporting information such as FAQs.’