Cultural competence

What is cultural competence?

Cultural competence is defined as having the awareness, knowledge and skills necessary to perform a myriad of psychological tasks when recognising the diverse world views and practices of oneself and of clients from different ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

Competence involves the possession and demonstration of knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the level of performance expected by a psychologist working within their specified scope(s) of practice.

Cultural competence occurs when there is understanding of self as a culture bearer; the historical, social and political influences on health in the New Zealand environs.

In particular, psychological health and wellbeing whether pertaining to individuals, peoples, organisations or communities and the development of relationships that engender trust and respect.

Cultural competence includes an informed appreciation of the cultural basis of psychological theories, models and practices and a commitment to modify one’s practice accordingly for individuals, their whānau/family, groups of people or communities.

Why is cultural competence important?

The New Zealand Government affirmed Māori as tangata whenua (the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand) hold a unique place in our country.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (te Tiriti) / Treaty of Waitangi, is the nation’s founding document and outlines the duties and responsibilities between Māori and the Crown.

The Articles of te Tiriti define the duties and obligations of the Crown, psychologists and training providers. Fundamental to the improvement of Māori health is securing te Tiriti within the health sector.

The New Zealand Government introduced the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000, and this Act forms the basis of the current health system in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Practising in Aotearoa New Zealand

Cultural competencies are essential to practise as a psychologist in Aotearoa New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Legislation, Law, and Acts, and the Psychologists Board’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct hold all psychologists accountable for their actions, behaviours, and cultural and professional competence.

The Health Practitioners Assurance Act 2003 provides a framework for the regulation of health practitioners in order to protect the public where there is a risk of harm from professional practice.

The Board are using the resources provided by to increase our reo with each other in the office. We encourage all psychologists to visit the website and use the amazing resources they have available.

Helping you on your cultural journey

The Board recommends the course “Foundation Course in Cultural Competency (Māori) delivered at to get you started on your cultural journey. The New Zealand Psychological Society has a range of resources to help you on your cultural journey: