Connecting dots: improving dental outcomes for First Nations people

27 September 2022

A new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural safety curriculum, led by University of Melbourne Professor Julie Satur from the Melbourne Dental School, has been launched.

Unveiled at the International Association of Dental Research ANZ meeting held on Monday 26 September, the new curriculum for dental students will contribute to the development of graduate dental practitioners who have the appropriate knowledge, skills and practice to provide culturally safe oral health care.

Commissioned by the Australasian Council of Dental Schools, the new curriculum is based on key areas of culturally safe practice underpinned by the expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The curriculum has the flexibility to meet the different structures and needs of dental programs across Australia, with the deliberate aim of being able to meet the specific needs of local communities.

“Cultural safety is a spirit of practice taking into account Indigenous peoples’ strong connections to Country. We are asking all dental practitioners to undertake critical self-reflection to address identified bias, assumptions and racism,” Josh Cubillo, Indigenous Health Leadership Coordinator at the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, said.

“Cultural safety leads to cultural respect and a feeling of security for the patient. Acknowledging Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing is the biggest step and this new curriculum is a start.”

Professor Satur believes the new curriculum is long overdue.

“We know dental care is expensive and oral health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are significant. We also know that poor oral health has multiple effects on other aspects of health,” she said.

“It is time we changed our approaches to managing oral health with Indigenous peoples and we believe the new curriculum is a step towards achieving better outcomes.”

It will be implemented over the next five years in response to new accreditation standards established by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority and the Dental Board of Australia in January 2021.

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