Talking about the system with people from CALD, migrant and refugee backgrounds

  • For people from CALD backgrounds, seeking support can be a daunting experience, made more difficult by language and cultural gaps
  • Where necessary, support workers need to take the time clearly explain to people from CALD backgrounds what services exist, how they operate and how they can assist
  • You can search our Services directory for specialist CALD services that can provide support.

Issues to be aware of when talking about the system

Legal, social and other support services can vary greatly between countries, which can lead to confusion for people who have settled in Australia. Experiences with authority figures in another country may make people from CALD backgrounds reluctant to involve the police or state services after migration for fear of making things worse.

For some people, taking action to end violence may affect other members of their family, even those overseas. Support workers need to keep these things in mind when supporting people from CALD backgrounds and talking about how the Australian service systems work.

Increasing safety

When talking about how the system works, it is also important to:

  • Reinforce that everyone in Australia has a right to feel safe in their home
  • Reinforce that there are laws designed to protect people
  • Communicate that violence and abuse is more than just physically hurting someone – it is also things like calling someone names, forcing them to have sex (including if they are married) and controlling all of the family’s finances
  • Ensure the right to interpreters

Ongoing support

It's important to understand that a person from a CALD background might not have a strong support network nearby. Sometimes most of their friends and family are overseas. Referral to ongoing support is crucial. It may take time for someone to gain the confidence to continue using services. The reasons for this might include them not having experience in making these kinds of decisions as well as the challenges of accessing a complex system.

It is important to keep these things in mind when recommending ongoing support:

  • The person might be overwhelmed and confused about the various support services available — take the time to explain the service as well as what they can and can't do
  • Support from the community service sector is free
  • Support is confidential (if necessary, explain what this means)
  • Simply providing referrals might not be enough due to hesitation in approaching services
  • Concepts and language used such as 'risk', 'threat' and 'violence' might mean different things to your client

Talking about confidentiality

Confidentiality practices in the service sector often require explanation. One of the reasons people from CALD backgrounds may not seek support for domestic and family violence is their concern that everyone in their community will find out.

Talking through the following points may reassure the person you are supporting:

  • What confidentiality means and the laws that exist to protect a person's privacy
  • The Privacy Act and how it works
  • That each person has control over what information can be shared through 'consent to release information'.
  • That all services have a legal duty of care to their clients that must be met

Explaining the system where necessary assists people from CALD backgrounds experiencing violence to understand what their rights and options are. This means that they can make informed choices to increase the safety of themselves and their children.