Objective To measure perceptions of Australian medical students and staff about whether key Learning Topics included in the National Patient Safety Education Framework (NPSEF) are being taught and what challenges to patient safety teaching are thought to be operating. Methods A cross-sectional survey of medical deans, educators and students was conducted in 2010. Twenty of twenty-one Australian medical schools participated. Using a five-point Likert scale, respondents rated whether patient safety topics were taught in their medical school and challenges to including patient safety in the curriculum. Results There were 2413 eligible responses: deans (or nominees) (n = 14); medical educators (n = 98); and medical students (n = 2301). There was most agreement that teaching occurred about communicating effectively (8% neutral or disagreed) and least agreement that there was teaching about adverse events and near misses (35% neutral or disagreed). Deans, educators and students responded positively about available champions and expertise and negatively to the curriculum being too full to include patient safety. There were consistent differences between the responses of the stakeholder groups (P < 0.0005 in a non-parametric test). Deans were more positive than educators, who were more positive than students. Conclusions Strong variability between perceptions of Learning Areas reveals opportunities for improvement in teaching about patient safety, especially in the area of recognizing and addressing adverse events and risks. Consistent differences across stakeholder groups reveal disparities in the perceptions of the teachers and their students. The results indicate targets for improving patient safety learning and closing the feedback loop between students and staff.