Engaging culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Sydney is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) cities in the world. In the former Canterbury local government area, for example, 45% of people were born in a country where English was not their first language, and people come from countries as diverse as China, Lebanon, Greece, Vietnam and Bangladesh (ABS 2011). To reduce health and social inequality, it’s essential that our services are responsive to the needs of our diverse communities, a process which must start with engaging the communities themselves.

At the Ethnic Community Services Co-operative, we have been working at the grassroots level since 1979 to engage and empower CALD communities. Here are some of our top tips for engaging CALD communities:

  1. Get to know your community – resources as community profiles and immigration profiles can provide valuable information about who lives in your local community.
  2. Take time to build trust – for many CALD communities, personal connections based on trust are essential to building rapport. Consider working in partnership with a local community organisation that has links with the target community, or connect with some key community leaders who could help to promote your program.
  3. Assume nothing! Be curious a little cultural knowledge can be helpful (such as awareness of etiquette around gender, fasting days etc.), but don't assume that the person you are working with will necessarily identify with every aspect of that culture. Be curious about individual experiences and perspectives.
  4. Communication matters – factors such as using interpreters, the level of formality of language in brochures and forms, and the opportunity to hear information multiple times, can be critical to engagement.
  5. Reflect on your practice – continually reflect on the ways in which your own culture and past experiences have affected your values and the way in which you work.

At the Ethnic Community Services Co-operative, we offer a range of resources, professional development opportunities and support to organisations seeking to enhance their work with CALD communities. You can find out more at www.ecsc.org.au or phone us on 9569 1288.