Does Indigenous health education have an impact on student’s attitudes? Second results from a longitudinal study

Prof. Janie Dade Smith1, Dr Shannon Springer1

1Bond University, Varsity Lakes, QLD, Australia


There are many initiatives occurring in Australia to teach cross cultural education to health professionals. However there is little evidence that any of these programs have a long term impact on the cultural safety of the students practice once graduated, with recent research indicating that some education is having the reverse effect and creating hostility and racism [1],[2].

Since 2012 Bond University has been conducting an Indigenous health program for its medical and allied health students; as well as a 5 year longitudinal study to measure the impact on student’s attitudes and behaviours using a validated cultural awareness and competence scale survey, which is administered pre and post immersion at year 1, in year 3 and year 5.

Initial findings of the cultural awareness study (n=280) revealed positive shifts in various dimensions of cultural awareness amongst first and third year undergraduate medical students. The most notable differences occurred within knowledge acquisition, retention and dissemination (items 18–20, p<0.001). It also found that students made more effort to learn about how cultural factors affected health, delivery and behaviour; as well as positive shifts in institutional and curricular influences following the cultural immersion in Year 1 [3].

Cultural immersion has a great potential to elicit positive shifts in attitudinal and knowledge related aspects of cultural awareness in the early stages of a medical curricula.

1. McDermott D, S.D., Managing a diverse student discomfort with an Indigenous health curriculum, in LIME good practice case studies. 2012, LIME Network: Melbourne. p. 26-28.
2. Sears KP, Improving cultural competence education: the utility of an intersectional framework. Medical Education, 2012. 46: p. 545-551.
3. S Sargeant, JD Smith, and S. Springer, Enhancing cultural awareness education for undergraduate medical students: Initial findings from a unique cultural immersion activity. Australasian Medical Journal, 2016. 9(7).


Professor Janie Dade Smith is the Professor of Innovations in Medical Education at Bond University where she was instrumental in establishing their award winning Indigenous health program for the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine. Previously Janie ran her own national company – RhED Consulting Pty Ltd – where she undertook consultancies for health departments, universities, professional colleges, government and not for profit organisations. Janie is well published, being author of the very successful text Australia’s Rural, Remote and Indigenous Health: which is used by most Australian universities and organisations. Janie is the immediate past president of CRANAplus.