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Positive Workplaces: Celebrating diversity and inclusivity

This year has been a topsy-turvy one, meaning it can be easy to go overboard in decorating or getting swept up in the commercial hype of the season to mitigate some of the negativity of 2020. Data from the 2016 Census [1] shows that Australia continues to grow as a culturally diverse nation, with differences across a magnitude of attributes such as gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Diversity in the workplace extends beyond being politically correct by saying ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings’ at this time of year. Take December as an opportunity to kick start a year-round celebration with your staff, clients and stakeholders by building an understanding and awareness of the traditions, values, and beliefs of others.

Some ideas to celebrate in the workplace (and from home!) while being culturally diverse and inclusive this festive season are:

Give your staff an opportunity for input

When planning for celebrations, or decorating, be sure to include your staff in the process. Ask for their ideas and opinions, and any insight they may have into those of your clients and stakeholders.

Offer a wide variety of alternatives for food and drinks, including non-alcoholic drinks, and ensure those with dietary requirements, for any reason, are catered for.

Allow your staff to opt-out of holiday events without fuss, judgment, or repercussion.

Decorate with diversity in mind

Spread the cheer with celebratory decorations such as tinsel, snowflakes, baubles, and lights. Avoid religious or commercialised iconography (nativity scenes, angels, menorahs, Saint Nicholas/Santa).

You may even like to think outside the box by choosing your own theme, such as an Australian tropical summer which could include palm trees, beach scenes, kookaburras, and more!

Skip the carols,

Even by early December, carols have been over-played in supermarkets, petrol stations and department stores for months and can become tedious. Why not play for music genres that emulate fun instead? Summer vibes with the Beach Boys or Daddy Cool, or call back to a simpler time with big band tunes and classics like Frank Sinatra and Etta James that still emulate a festive feeling.

Keep mental health in mind

For some, December can be the most challenging time of year. Financial issues, family conflict, isolation or loneliness – more prevalent than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can increase stress, depression and anxiety for many people. Keep an eye out on your peers and make sure to ask ‘R U OK’ or go the extra mile to check that they are okay. The Australian Government Department of Health has a wealth of resources available through their Head to Health website.

Celebrate year-round

Talk about cultural diversity in the workplace and appreciate other celebrations throughout the year to build stronger workplace relationships. You could use a clinical audit tool to identify cultural and diverse groups in your population to help you better care for and support all your community members. It is a great idea to appreciate and learn about other religious holidays and celebrations to ensure everyone in your team feels like their personal beliefs are valued.

AGPAL clients have access to our Cultural Learning Program’s first module, Introduction to Cultural Competence. In this module, we look closely at cultural competence, what it looks like in practice, and how to develop it. All you need to do is log into your AGPAL accreditation hub and head to e-learning.

Key religious dates include, but are not limited to:

  • Diwali, a Hindu holiday celebrated to honour Lakshmi, India’s goddess of prosperity.
  • Hanukka, a Jewish holiday held for eight days every November or December celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple.
  • Ramadan, one of the Five Pillars of Islam observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
  • Vaisakhi, a Punjabi holiday is celebrating the Sikh New year and commemorating the year Sikhism was born as a collective faith.
  • Vesak, a Buddhist holiday is celebrating Buddha’s birthday.

Hold meetings for the clinical team to discuss and identify the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQ+) patients or stakeholders.

Meeting the Standards

While there are many ways you can celebrate at this time of year, particular activities or actions can also support you with demonstrating compliance with accreditation requirements outlined in the Royal Australian College General Practitioners (RACGP) Standards 5th edition.

In the RACGP Standards 5th edition, Criterion C2.1 – Respectful and culturally appropriate care, mandatory Indicator A specifies that ‘Our practice, in providing patient healthcare, considers patients’ rights, beliefs, and their religious and cultural backgrounds’.

“Respectful and culturally appropriate care is based on cultural awareness and sensitivity, which begins with learning about other cultures and cultural beliefs” (page 25, RACGP Standards 5th edition).

To meet Indicator C2.1 > A, you must demonstrate that you have considered patients’ rights, beliefs, and religious and cultural backgrounds when providing healthcare.


In addition to the ideas covered above, below is a list of Australian resources to ensure you have a collection of reference points for creating a more inclusive and diverse practice/organisation:

Employees and Religious holidays
(, Australian Government)

Calendar of Cultural and Religious Dates
(Harmony Day, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Government)

Calendar of Australian State Festivals and Celebrations
(Harmony Day, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Government)

Diversity in the workplace
(, Australian Government)

Celebrating the Holidays and Diversity in the Workplace
(Society for Human Resource Management)