Cultural safety

  • Overview: ‘Cultural safety’ is different from other approaches — it is more about an attitude than about having knowledge of cultures.
  • Length of route: 45 minutes
  • Level of difficulty: Medium
  • Prior knowledge required: Basic knowledge about the concept of culture. See the About culture brochure

If someone seems to be behaving inappropriately — rudely or negatively— start with the assumption that there is a good reason for it. Assume that the behaviour does make sense and that you just don’t know how it makes sense.

2 Sticks 1 Green

Someone who knows the cultural context may tell you otherwise (that the behaviour is inappropriate) but until they do, start with the assumption that there is a good reason for it.

Stick Happy Man

Then your ignorance won’t cause damage.


Cultural safety itinerary

  • Review the Hazards associated with trying to apply knowledge about cultures
  • Go to the cultural safety activity to develop ideas about what you might do to increase cultural safety in your own relationships.
  • Read the background below


The concept of kawa whakaruruhau (cultural safety) arose out of a nursing education leadership hui held in Christchurch in 1989 in response to recruitment and retention issues of Māori nurses. The cultural safety guidelines were initially written by Irihapeti Ramsden in 1991, and further developed by a Nursing Council committee (1996), led by Irihapeti Ramsden, in response to the recommendations arising from the Cultural Safety Review Committee (1995). Guidelines to Cultural Safety, the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori Health in Nursing Education and Practice.

Initially the educational focus was on teaching cultural safety to health professionals in relation to Māori, but the principles of cultural safety have been recognised as relevant to all cultures and their application has been broadened accordingly.

Go to the References section to find out more.