2 Creating safe work spaces for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people

Creating safe work spaces for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people

Tomie-Leigh Naughton

Creating cultural safety is very important in a workplace as well as the community. People with different cultural backgrounds should feel safe to talk about their own values and beliefs without feeling excluded or isolated in a workplace. Creating a safe space does not only refer to being safe from physical harm, it includes feeling safe from psychological or emotional harm (Holley & Steiner, 2005). A Culturally safe workplace allows an individual to feel secure in their identity, culture and their community. Having the security of a culturally safe workplace helps with one’s personal and collective growth and beneficial exchange in other people’s cultural differences

1.2 Aim

This report aims to provide a summary of cultural challenges that have been faced in my workplace as a hotel receptionist at the Travelodge Resort in Darwin. It will describe how racial comments made through an online review have affected the culturally safe workplace we used to have.

1.3 Scope

This report will describe how cultural judgements such as negative ethnocentrism and a lack of cultural empathy has had a negative impact on our team and the culture of the Larakia people. This report will also explore how a racist online review displays the anonymous posters lack of cultural intelligence and cultural awareness.

  1. 2. Summary and Observations:

2.1 Summary of the scenario

The anonymous poster in this report has left a racist review on an online website for the Travelodge Resort Darwin. The anonymous poster had made comments about how “Indigenous people should not be a part of your holiday experience in a hotel”. The review described their “horrible” experience at the hotel due to Indigenous people “ruining” their stay. This review has triggered the hotel team emotionally as we all are culturally aware of the Larakia people and respect them as the traditional owners of the land. The review has had a greater effect on the Indigenous hotel receptionists as they feel as though they are not working in a culturally safe space. As emotions throughout the hotel have raised, the Travelodge management have expressed their empathy towards the team for experiencing such a hurtful racist comment. In Darwin, the majority of the community are aware of the cultural differences of the Larakia people and have developed cultural intelligence by understanding we are all not the same. However, tourists that come to visit during Darwin’s peak season have most likely never been exposed to cultures such as the Larrakia peoples. Some tourists may see their beliefs and values as the only way and ignore the impact of cultural differences. This is what (Quappe & Cantatore 2005) describe as the parochial stage of cultural awareness.

  1. Analysis

3.1 Empathy

A study by Bruhn (2005) has shown that emotions can be triggered by environmental events, and those who are not in touch with their emotions are more likely to not have a sense of conscience. The anonymous poster’s experience at Travelodge Resort has caused them to have unconscious emotions encouraging them to post a racist review online. When the anonymous poster wrote the review, it is obvious they were not feeling any remorse, guilt or harm they would be causing to the Larrakia people. Not only is the review racist and insulting towards the Larrakia culture, is has also discouraged our Indigenous team members to feel like they are not working in a culturally safe space. The Travelodge Resort takes pride in having Indigenous people as part of our team and has been saddened by the lack of empathy displayed in the review. The General Manager of the hotel has expressed their sympathy towards the team and the Larrakia people, they have also reported the review to have it taken down.

3.2 Cultural Judgements

Cultural intelligence is the most common uses refers to people’s success (or lack thereof) when adjusting to another’s culture (Brislin, Worthley & McNab 2006). In this report we will discuss how the anonymous poster’s lack of cultural intelligence encouraged them to make ineffective cultural judgements. Matsumoto (2007) explained that we are ethnocentric when we view other’s cultures through the narrow lens of our own culture. Most people are ethnocentric, and it is usually the foundation that holds society together. When one cannot look beyond their own cultural values and beliefs and creates negative judgements and stereotypes of another’s culture it is called negative ethnocentrism. It is this “narrow lens” that links negative ethnocentrism to the concepts of stereotyping, prejudice, and racism (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2013). It is clear that the anonymous poster in this report could not view the Larrakia people’s culture through a “narrow lens” and has displayed a lack of cultural intelligence towards their culture. The anonymous poster’s negative ethnocentrism has allowed them to believe that their own culture, values and beliefs are more superior and unquestionably correct to that of the Larrakia people’s culture.

Samovar, Porter & McDaniel (2013) have stated that it is not an easy task to avoid ethnocentric perception and behaviour. Triandi (1996) proposed to avoid dogmatism and to be open to new cultural views that “when we make a comparative judgment that our culture is in some ways better than another, we need to learn to follow this judgment with two questions: Is that really true? What is the objective evidence?”. The anonymous person who left the racist review could better their cultural intelligence by standing back from themselves and becoming aware of the Larrakia people’s cultural values, beliefs and perceptions (Quappe & Cantatore, 2005).

3.3 Creating Safe Spaces

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a culturally safe space is one where they feel safe and secure in their own identity, culture and community. A person should feel safe to talk about their own unique worldviews and cultural value within their workplace without feeling less important than others. (Hamilton, 2019). The Indigenous receptionists at the Travelodge Resort do not feel culturally safe in their physical environment or the online environment because of the racist review. The review left by the anonymous poster has affected the Indigenous employee’s culturally safe workspace as they cannot openly express their individuality at work without the fear of judgement, feeling misunderstood as well as feeling challenged by conditions that are not viewed as empowering (Hamilton, 2019). Empowerment is the key to safe spaces.

Page & Czuba (1999) define empowerment as a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their lives, communities and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important. The Travelodge Resort defines racism of any kind as important but takes great significance in racism towards the Larrakia people’s culture. The Hotel Manager of Travelodge is acting on the racist review by expressing her sympathy towards the Larrakia people and her team, as well as empowering and comforting the Indigenous employees as the review has affected their culturally safe workspace.

  1. Recommendations

The anonymous person who posted a racist review about the Larrakia people could have left the racism out of their review and spoken to management about their concerns instead of posting their hurtful words online. Due to this anonymous post, the Travelodge team will make their workplace a more culturally safe space for Larrakia people and their team by creating an atmosphere for all cultures to be involved (Holley & Steiner, 2005). Travelodge will acknowledge the presence of culturally diverse people and pay their respects to the Larrakia people and their country by promoting their support of cultural diversity online and in the hotel.

  1. Summary and Conclusion

In this report I have discussed the importance of a culturally safe workplace for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people who are employed by the Travelodge Resort. In summary it is important for people to be more culturally self-aware of the Larrakia people’s culture by standing back from their own culture and gaining cultural intelligence. When one has gained cultural intelligence, they are able to make effective cultural judgements and express cultural empathy. This will allow for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders to feel safe and secure in their own identity, culture and community.


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