• To create multi-media educational resources to assist clinicians and health science students better understand the situations that lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication and a lack of shared understanding between Aboriginal Australians and health service providers.
  1. Develop and evaluate a series of short (7-10min) vignettes that will illustrate the systemic aspects of care and the individual circumstances that may contribute to the failure of Aboriginal patients and clinicians to attain a shared understanding
  2. Develop a Facilitators Guide for the vignettes that will constitute a major component of a curriculum in cross cultural medicine. The Guide will be used to stimulate discussion and encourage students to respect the social, cultural and personal influences that affect an individual’s choices.
  3. Develop skills in clinicians that will bridge the cultural divide so that they may provide appropriate and effective health care that will facilitate patient uptake and access to health services. 

The resources will help health students recognise that patients and health care professionals often have different perspectives, values and beliefs about health and illness and that this can lead to conflict, especially when communication is affected by language and cultural differences.

Using film vignettes and guided discussions, students will become familiar with the issues and challenges facing both clinicians and patients. They will better understand how institutional discrimination and mistrust may affect patients’ interactions with health care professionals and the health care system.

The objective is to assist health care professionals to develop competencies to manage these situations in a respectful, open-minded manner. 

Having had several approaches from universities wishing to access documentary material of Aboriginal patient stories to form part of their cross cultural medical and health science courses, we believe this is a much needed resource.

Implications for policy and practice: 

It is increasingly recognised that the health literacy of patients is affected by their interactions with health staff, particularly when there are differing perspectives on health, illness and medicine.

There is an urgent need to develop clinicians’ skills in cross-cultural communication and health training institutions, acutely aware of the lack of appropriate resources, are seeking ways to support clinicians to competently deal with challenging cross-cultural situations. Film and interactive visual media are powerful communication and teaching resources.

We believe this is a much needed resource to help health science students develop a greater sense of curiosity, empathy and respect for the different social, cultural and personal influences affecting an individual’s choices. 

Our research has found:

Research has demonstrated that a predominantly non-Indigenous health workforce has difficulty in effectively communicating with Aboriginal people and the resulting miscommunications impact on the uptake of health services, health decisions and ultimately health outcomes.

Maren Grainger-Monsen, a physician and documentary maker in the US, has demonstrated that film capturing real medical interactions is particularly powerful, allowing doctors and patients to better see and understand their roles and communication needs. Film is a potent tool for developing cultural competencies in health professionals and improving health outcomes.

Chief investigator:
Project team:
Contact information:
Project dates:

June 2015 - March 2016

  • Medicare Local NT
  • NT Renal Services
  • Renal Advocacy Advisory Committee
  • Central Australian Renal Voice