Working with women and children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities

CALD women experiencing gendered violence face a set of complex dynamics, issues and risks when trying to access services and increase their safety. By focussing on implementing cultural competence in a Human Rights Framework, services prioritise safety.

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Culture is never an excuse for gendered violence. There a few things to keep in mind when working with women from a CALD background. Risk assessment and safety planning are crucial skills and some ideas are presented in the following video for increasing cultural competence in these areas. 

Developing broader skills and ensuring organisations respond well are also important elements of working with women from CALD backgrounds. This section has some tools to help maintain good practice when working cross-culturally.

General principles of cultural competence

  • Respect and appreciation of cultural diversity

  • Cultural awareness

  • Social justice

  • Entitlements and human rights

  • Equality and equity

Principles of human rights

  • Equity, equality and non-discrimination (all the UN Declarations)

  • Everyone has a right to achieve the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (ICESCR)

  • Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women (CEDAW)

  • Some groups of women, such as women belonging to minority groups, are especially vulnerable to violence (CEDAW)


The Human Rights Framework, which is presented here for organisations to implement, provides information about how services and practitioners can achieve the balance between respecting beliefs, values and a woman’s worldview (principles of cultural competency), while upholding the right to a life of dignity and freedom from gendered violence (principles of human rights). It also has tools for reflective practice which help organisations and individuals learn from and improve their work over time. 

The cross-cultural communication tools use animations to demonstrate the window of opportunity for engaging with women, and the tools for workers to start a conversation about sexual assault with CALD victim/survivors give concrete examples and case studies for implement the Human Rights Framework in every day practice.

A note about culture

Culture has been defined as 'an integrated pattern of human behaviour that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group'. It is typically associated with the history of a community practice through generations.

Cultural background may play an important role in shaping a person’s value system and behaviour. However, identifying with a certain cultural group does not necessarily translate into conforming to all its norms, beliefs and traditions. In reality, there is a great deal of diversity of both beliefs and behaviours within cultures, which in themselves are dynamic and constantly changing. 

Many other factors, such as where a person lives and their family, life experiences, education, profession, interactions with people, and relationships also play a significant role. It can be counterproductive, and even dangerous, to view a woman experiencing gendered violence as being solely a product of her cultural background. 

These resources were developed for 1800RESPECT in collaboration with:

inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Cross-Cultural Consultants: Beata Ostapiej-Piatkowski 0468 607 250 & Annabelle Allimant 0427 125 799

Victorian Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Coalition

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