Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

Australians seek diversity and inclusion in dentistry

SYDNEY, Australia: The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has recently published an article on diversity in Australian dentistry. According to the article, there has been a shift within the profession in recent years and the majority of people are now willing to embrace diversity and inclusiveness in their workplace.

According to the Diversity Council Australia’s Inclusion@Work Index, 75% of Australian workers support their organisation in taking action to create a workplace which is diverse and inclusive. “I don’t know if I would say we’re actually better as a profession, but we are definitely talking about it far more—and that is a critical step,” said Dr Alexander Holden, a senior lecturer and the head of the subject area of professional practice at the University of Sydney School of Dentistry and a Federal Councillor of the ADA. “Part of that shift comes from the figures that women now make up more than half of all dental practitioners in Australia. That marks a significant change in terms of gender diversity, and with that, I think we will also see a change in other areas of diversity.”

According to Holden, there is still considerable work to be done at higher levels. There is a need for more practitioners representing a range of minorities and cultural backgrounds. “When you look at the ratio of women-to-men in leadership roles in dentistry, it is woefully biased towards men,” he said. “But I don’t think we are going to see it like that for much longer. We’re at a stage where all of us need to ask if the environment we are setting up across the profession encourages women to be more involved within dentistry, and also apply that way of thinking to people from a range of backgrounds. Adopting that degree of reflection and awareness will, however, be a challenge for some,” Holden added.

“This is why practitioners’ self-awareness of how they operate within a practice is so crucial,” Holden said. “It is checking if your normal behaviour is compatible with other people’s cultural views, and that is where a lot of my older colleagues get impatient with this ideal, and just put this down to ‘political correctness’.”

He continued by saying that healthcare professionals should make sure that their service was acceptable and be aware that the diversity of society was changing constantly. “It is about being thoughtful about who you are working alongside and who you are looking after, and that your behaviour is in order,” Holden concluded.

Australia is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in four Australians were born overseas. Moreover, an estimated 84% of Australians believe that multiculturalism has been beneficial for Australia. Greater diversity in the healthcare workforce may advance cultural competency, improve access to high-quality healthcare, strengthen the medical research agenda, and ensure optimal management of the healthcare system, according to a report published in the US journal Health Affairs.

The report argues that most healthcare professionals will, at some point,  have to treat patients from different backgrounds. To do so effectively, practitioners must show an understanding of how and why different belief systems, ethnic origins, family structures and other factors influence the way people experience illness, adhere to medical advice and respond to treatment.

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DT Asia Pacific No. 4, 2019

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