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Cultural and social structures, such as race, religion, language, education, ethnicity, and economic status are major influences on peoples health and wellbeing. The Australian people represent a wealth of cultural diversity. The term culture in this chapter is used in the broad sense to mean the cultural and social structural dimensions or institutions in the environment that influence the development of an individuals beliefs, values and behaviour patterns.

In addition to the Indigenous population, Australia’s cultural diversity has increased through immigration. Australia has one of the largest proportions of immigrant populations in the world, with an estimated 24% of the total population (4.96 million people) born overseas (Commonwealth of Australia 2008). Well over half of these, one in seven Australians, were born in a non-English-speaking country (Australian Institute of Health Welfare (AIHW 2008). In excess of 200 cultural and linguistic groups are represented in today’s Australian population (Commonwealth of Australia 2007).

Diversity exists too in the wide range of contexts and environments in which people live. Variations in land, climate and settings compound diversity in social and cultural characteristics of people, as reflected in the diversity of settings in which health care is delivered. Health care is delivered in rural-remote areas, in community health settings, in the home, and in a number of acute settings within or outside hospitals in urban settings.

The purpose of this chapter is to inform student nurses and to develop in them an awareness of the benefits and challenges of diversity, with the aim of promoting the delivery of nursing care to diverse populations in culturally meaningful and safe ways.

ISBN-10: 1405100958

ISBN-13: 978-1405100953


The Authors' final version of this Book Chapter is available for download.

Staff and Students of the University of Notre Dame Australia may access Contexts of Nursing: An introduction from the Benedict XVI Medical Library, Sydney (WY 86 CON 2010) and the Galvin Medical Library, Fremantle (WY 86 CON 2010)

Contexts of Nursing: An introduction may be accessed from the publisher here

Contexts of Nursing: An introduction may be accessed as a Google Book from the National Library of Australia here