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"Cultural language used by staff"

About: Broome Health Campus

(as a staff member),

My relative who is from Broome – Yawuru Language Group, is currently in hospital and my cousin had told me a story about what had happened during her patient change time.

A nurse who has been EXCELLENT with my relative was using local Yawuru language to communicate, which is a REALLY good thing. But she used the same language when attending to another indigenous patient from the Fitzroy Valley area – Wangkatjungka/Walmatjarri Language groups. This is not appropriate as the language she used was not understood by the patient and sometimes can cause unwanted behaviour and even be offensive.

To explain how this can be offensive: languages throughout the Kimberley and Australia often use the same words but have different meanings.

For example:

Jandu – In Bunuba this word means Family but in Yawuru this word means woman.

Munga – In Walmatjarri and in the Fitzroy Valley region this word means girl but in one of the NT languages, this word is used to swear at a woman.

It’s great when staff use words that patients understand but this means that staff need to be aware of who they are talking to and where they come from and maybe ask them for the appropriate word to use.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Margi Faulkner, Operations Manager, Broome, WACHS - Kimberley 7 years ago
Margi Faulkner
Operations Manager, Broome,
WACHS - Kimberley
Submitted on 8/05/2017 at 6:32 PM
Published on Care Opinion on 9/05/2017 at 9:25 AM

picture of Margi Faulkner

Dear Minyany,

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact us regarding your relative’s stay in Broome Hospital. It is very gratifying to hear the positive experience one of our nurse’s was able to provide by using some of the Yawuru language to better communicate and connect with her patients. We are committed to improving the cultural security of our service provision and improving our ability to recognise and accommodate the cultural backgrounds of each of our patients.

I would like to particularly thank you for notifying us of the potential for these attempts to go wrong. I am sure this nurse was attempting to put all her patients at ease, and for a novice in a new language she would not have wanted to cause any offence. Your raising those specific examples, and the issue in general for us, means we can attempt to avoid these issues in the future.

Jo Gray is the Aboriginal Health Consultant in the WA Country Health Service Kimberley Executive. We have been discussing the Cultural Awareness training and resources available to our staff, and I have made contact with her regarding this story. She and I will also make contact with Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga Language Centre to locate further resources and training for our staff, and incorporate these into updates to our Cultural Training program.

If you know the name of the nurse you mentioned, and would like to provide her name to me via phone or email, I can provide this feedback directly to her and let her know of the risks you raise. You can phone me on 0417 987 724 or email me at

Additionally, Broome Hospital has a District Health Advisory Committee, for which we are always seeking more community representation. Your input and advice on these sorts of matters would be very welcome at this group should you wish to attend our monthly meetings. I can provide you further details if you phone or email me, or you can come and see our stall at the Kyle Andrews walk this Sunday.


Margi Faulkner

Operations Manager, Broome Hospital

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