Background: In 2008, the Council of Australian Governments announced its goals to improve Indigenous life expectancy, health, education and employment: ‘Closing the Gap’ (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008). Internationally, occupational therapists seek to promote social justice and human rights through occupation. Despite this effort, Australian occupational therapists have largely remained silent in response to the national agenda of closing the gap in Indigenous health. Methods: This article identifies the challenges of research and practice at the ‘cultural interface’, the juncture where Western knowledge meets the Indigenous knowledge of our clients. The article draws on the first author’s research experience with Indigenous peoples. Through a process of reflection on the challenges highlighted by research at the cultural interface, this article identifies a range of professional processes used to negotiate differing and conflicting perspectives. Results: By comparing the research context with occupational therapy practice, the author identifies some of the actions and supports that can be used by occupational therapists to provide culturally appropriate and negotiated interventions with Indigenous people. Conclusions: Although a number of individual occupational therapists work with Indigenous communities and individuals to improve the services offered, it is suggested that the occupational therapy profession needs to work together towards closing the gap. The development of special interest groups, professional networks and a National Position Statement on Indigenous Health would provide the background to developing guidelines for practice with Indigenous clients.
Australian Occupational Therapy Journal / Vol. 58, No. 1, pp.11-16