Find a professional editor in your field or genre, or in your language, with our Editors Directory.



Dr Mark J Lock was the guest presenter at an online speaker meeting hosted by EdNSW on 1 February 2022. Mark is a Ngiyampaa man and he was talking to us from Awabakal land in Newcastle. He is an academic, a researcher and an editor.

Cultural safety was the focus of Mark’s presentation. He defined cultural safety, explained its relevance to First Nations Australians, and how we can ensure it is present in our editing practices. One way we can make editing more culturally safe is by applying a cultural safety test.


Cultural safety: a definition

To begin with, cultural safety can be as simple as asking a First Nations Australian, Whose country am I on? “Thinking about cultural safety is a mentality, an attitude, a philosophy,” Mark said.

Cultural identity is important in his editing practice and he advocates for his heritage to be recognised. For example, his byline as an associate editor for the Australian Journal of Rural Health is Mark Lock, Ngiyampaa, PhD. This demonstrates his cultural identity and his academic credibility – and brings these two worldviews together.

There are numerous definitions of cultural safety and they can be “soupy”. Let me explain that. Mark provided a link to a research article (he was one of the twenty co-authors): Are cultural safety definitions culturally safe? A review of 42 cultural safety definitions in an Australian cultural concept soup. Helpfully, he also provided his own definition: “Cultural safety means seeing something of yourself positively regarded in society”.

Mark encourages us to develop our own definition. For him, the four most important concepts of cultural safety – its philosophical ramparts – are reflexivity, power, identity and culture. “Reflective reflexivity is deep interrogation of yourself,” he said in the Q&A. Learning about cultural safety is akin to learning about yourself and your position in a relationship with Aboriginal people, on a personal, professional or societal level.


Cultural safety test

“If I read something and it diminishes, demeans and disempowers Aboriginal people, then it fails the cultural safety test,” Mark said. (You can read more on cultural safety and cultural danger in his 2021 IPEd Conference presentation – Culturally safe editing: a chart to navigate stormy cultural waterswhich Mark has recently made available on his blog).

Mark used case histories to illustrate his viewpoint. He gave a gold medal to one example: a paper on Indigenous health education that was written sensitively and respectfully. Meanwhile, the others were contra-examples: publications that fail the cultural safety test because they violated ethical principles and included offensive language or appropriation.

Here are a couple of Mark’s “hard no’s”:

  • Do not use the acronym ATSI. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is the preferred terminology.
  • Do not group Indigenous and CALD peoples; that is, do not refer to culturally and linguistically diverse peoples as if they are a unity.

Mark concluded with a resource list and seven recommendations that editors can use to develop our cultural safety lens. For example, he recommends keeping a reflective journal. He says thinking about how culture, power and identity are inflected can help you become a more culturally safe editor. His advice, above all else, is to talk to Aboriginal people to determine what is culturally safe, to read widely around these concepts and get multiple perspectives from multiple sources. He hopes you will find that the soup tastes nice.

Mark’s slides are visually replete with stunning, conceptual artwork by DanPix, work that Mark commissioned. Check them out.

By Paul Anderson