A pathway to a healthier you

Cultural load

“We're working walking two worlds all the time and it's really hard to switch in between” says Aboriginal midwife Marni. 

“We don't differentiate ourselves from our clinical practice to our everyday life. People say don't take it home but actually, unfortunately, we do. We do, because we're around our community all the time. That's the cultural load that we carry. And people don't understand it.” 

Extra invisible load at work

Cultural load is the term given to the often-invisible additional load that you, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses, midwives and students experience in the workplace. 

As the only Indigenous person, or one of a small group, you’re often expected to become representatives of, or provide, the Indigenous experience.  

“It is not just with the people we care for, but other nurses and midwives that come to us. It's a different layer to a non- Aboriginal clinician, it’s what we do on top of our clinical role,” says Marni. 

After hours responsibilities

Cultural load also refers to the many responsibilities and obligations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have in their lives that they balance every day – they are more likely to have caring responsibilities and cultural and/or community obligations outside of the workplace. 

“We don't get to clock off at 5pm and go well ‘I'm done for the day’, cause the phone’s ringing or someone’s rocked up and they need help, or a yarn, it just doesn't turn off,” says Marni. 

Regard as a ‘safe person’

“We have a reputation in our community for whether we're offering good services or not or whether we're a safe person to go to or not. And it’s nothing to do with midwifery or nursing sometimes, but it's just that you’re known as a safe person to come to for people.” 

The additional cultural load that you, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses, midwives and students experience may include: 

  • Cultural responsibilities in relation to caring for family members and extended family 
  • Being part of local advisory councils and boards 
  • Balancing living and working in Community 
  • Experiencing systemic racism 
  • Supporting family and community who are experiencing the impacts of intergenerational trauma 
  • Living and working off Country 

Source: Australian Public Service Commission, August 2023

Get in touch

If you want to yarn to another nurse or midwife about any issue you’re experiencing at work or home.

Cultural load is the (often invisible) additional workload borne by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the workplace, where they are either the only Indigenous person or one of a small number of Indigenous people (Diversity Council Australia) 

say it is important to identify as Indigenous within their workplace,
carry the burden of high cultural load in the form of extra work demands and the expectation to educate others.

Source: Gari Yala from the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research and Diversity Council Australia. Nov 2020


CATSINaM – the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives is the peak advocacy body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives in Australia. 

Other resources we trust: 

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