The health status and outcomes for Aboriginal Australians are much poorer than for the non-Aboriginal population. Addressing this issue is a high priority. Regional, rural and remote communities have a higher proportion of Aboriginal people than metropolitan centres, so, there is a greater likelihood that students will be in contact with Aboriginal people while on a rural placement. Under the agreement between the University of Newcastle and the Australian Government Department of Health every student attending the Department of Rural Health (UONDRH) will receive Aboriginal cultural training.
The aim of the UONDRH Aboriginal cultural training program is to increase students' awareness of the history, social structure, protocols and customs that influence the way that health care is delivered to and perceived by Australian Aboriginal people1. The Aboriginal cultural training program has been developed in line with community cultural protocols of communication, consultation, integrity and transparency. It is structured as outlined below:
Tier One: Online 'Interactive Ochre'
The minimum cultural training expectation for all UONDRH students is that they visit the 'Interactive Ochre, Working Both Ways' website, which is accessible by clicking on the following link:
Students will tour the website and use the information to answer the questions on the Survey Monkey worksheet available at:
Students on placement at smaller towns in the region where face-to-face cultural training is not delivered by the UONDRH Indigenous Health Academics must complete Tier One cultural training. Ideally, all students, even if they do complete face-to-face training, should complete Tier One.
Tier Two: Face-to-Face
At the UONDRH hubs (Tamworth, Taree, Armidale, Moree, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour) students are expected to attend a face-to-face Aboriginal cultural training session that takes between 1 and 2 hours and is delivered by Indigenous Health Academics and Aboriginal Health Professionals. Students are notified by email of when these sessions are held.
Face-to-face sessions are the preferred way for students to access cultural training and students should make every effort to attend. Ideally, students will have completed Tier One before attending Tier Two.
Tier Three: Voluntary Activities
Engaging with Aboriginal people is the best way of developing an understanding of Aboriginal culture, local practices and protocols. The UONDRH offers students various opportunities to voluntarily participate in Aboriginal health-oriented activities. Further information is available from the Indigenous Health Academics, the Community Engagement Team and academic staff in your discipline.
 The UONDRH recognises that Australia is a multicultural society. While the training provided is specific to Australian Indigenous culture, there is a need for health professionals to be responsive to the cultural needs of other minority groups.