Australia is evolving at a rapid pace as a multicultural society of great diversity. To meet the unique needs of each individual cultural group, Human Service workers must be aware and understand the importance of culture when designing and developing cross-cultural programs. Failure to recognise " the fact that human identity is expressed in a specific cultural and community context and human potential is realised in much the same way" ( Fitzgerald, 1988, p. 58 ) can only be disadvantageous to any cross- cultural human service worker. The necessary preparation and underlining principles for cross-cultural work will be discussed. The role of self-awareness will then be explained. Finally, the range of skills needed by the Human Service worker to be competent in this area will be outlined.
A human service worker can prepare for cross-cultural work in various ways. It is, however, essential that a clear understanding of culture be first reached. Social anthropology attempts to classify and analyse some of the aspects of humans and their society. According to The new illustrated Columbia encyclopaedia ( 1979, p. 343 ) " Its unique contribution to studying the bonds of human relations has been the distinctive concept of culture ". Some cultural groups could misconstrue this concept as the "white mans theory" and believe that it does not portray the true origin, identity or values held by that particular culture. .
A definition of culture provided by D"Ardenne & Mahtani, ( 1999, p. 3 ) defines "Culture" as " the shared history, practises, beliefs and values of a racial, regional or religious group of people". It is important to understand that culture, according to The new illustrated Columbia encyclopaedia ( 1979, p. 1766 ) " is transmitted from generation to generation by learning processes rather than by biological inheritance". Many descendants of interracial relationships still hold the same cultural values as their predecessors.