Cultural safety on the agenda for public symposium Dec. 7

University and community researchers, health care professionals, and expert speakers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand will gather in Westbank on Dec. 7 for a major symposium examining the relatively new-to-Canada concept of cultural safety.

The term "cultural safety" was first used in the 1980s in New Zealand in response to the indigenous Maori peoples’ discontent with nursing care. Maori nursing students and Maori national organizations introduced nursing practices that avoid diminishing, demeaning or disempowering the cultural identity or wellbeing of an individual. Through cultural safety training, those delivering health care services become more respectful of nationality, culture, age, sex, political and religious beliefs.

"In the last decade, researchers have come to recognize that cultural safety is an important component in improving health care with and for indigenous people,” says symposium organizer Dr. Rachelle Hole, Assistant Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development, and member of the Okanagan Aboriginal Health Research Action Group.

"With local and international indigenous presenters expert in cultural safety, this symposium provides an important introduction to the concept and will explore the potential to develop research- and evidence-based cultural safety programs in the Okanagan Valley.”

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Interior Health Authority are funding the symposium, with sponsorship provided by the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Interior Health Authority, and UBC Okanagan.

The symposium will be moderated by Dr. Greg Younging, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies at UBC Okanagan. The day opens with a brief welcoming ceremony at 9 a.m., with invited speakers presenting from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Morning presenters include:

  • Dr. Jennifer Baker, a professor with the University of South Australia’s School of Nursing and Post-graduate Program director at that university’s David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research.
  • Dr. Steve Francis, policy manager at Australia’s Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues. Francis is an Honorary Fellow with the School of Social and Environmental Enquiry at the University of Melbourne and with the Refugee Health Research Centre at La Trobe University.
  • Dianne Wepa, cultural safety teacher and coordinator of several teaching teams on mental health and cultural safety at New Zealand’s Eastern Institute of Technology.

An interactive afternoon agenda will include a keynote address from Dr. Evan Adams, Aboriginal health physician advisor to B.C.’s Ministry of Health.

A panel of B.C. Interior representatives will discuss cultural safety issues at 1:30 p.m. Panelists include:

  • Barbara Mack, Aboriginal Health Liaison Worker, Interior Health Authority – Williams Lake
  • Shawna Buchholz, MPH Candidate, Lakehead University – Kelowna
  • Denise Taylor, Aboriginal Health Lead, Interior Health – Kelowna
  • Duane Tom, Health Director, Upper Nicola Indian Band – Merritt
  • Kelly Kubik , Director, Okanagan Métis Children and Family Services – Kelowna
  • Jessie Nyberg, Program Coordinator, Aboriginal Infant and Early Childhood Development, Vernon First Nations Friendship Centre – Vernon
  • Edna Terbasket, Executive Director, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society – Kelowna

The panel discussion will be followed at 2:30 p.m. by an open discussion that will include speakers, panelists and symposium attendees.

The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 7, at the Westbank First Nation’s Sensisyusten Community Center, 920 Quail Lane in Westbank. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

For information contact symposium coordinator Michelle Smith at UBC Okanagan, 250-807-8054, or visit

-- 30 --