What types of things do you need to consider when caring for someone from a multicultural background?

Early childhood is the time when children first become aware of differences among people and start to form opinions and attitudes about these differences.

Young children are naturally curious about differences

One of the ways they make sense of their world is to sort things into different categories and focus on one thing at a time – for example, whether another child has the same or different skin colour to them. Children do this to organise their experiences. 

Awareness of differences also means young children are sensitive to experiences of racism and prejudice. This can impact on their social and emotional wellbeing, their learning and their social relationships. Their ideas about and responses to diversity are influenced by what they see and hear around them. 

Helping all children and young people understand difference encourages them to feel good about who they are, where they fit in the world and appreciate diversity in others. It helps to build strong, inclusive communities where everyone enjoys a sense of being valued and belonging, which supports positive mental health.

Learn more about cultural diversity and mental health.

  • When children develop positive relationships with other children and educators, it helps them to feel that they belong. This early learning about themselves and others lays the foundation for their future health and wellbeing.

    In your early learning service or primary school, you can:
    • provide opportunities for children to listen to people from a range of backgrounds and their perspectives
    • respect individual differences and acknowledge that membership of a particular group doesn’t mean everyone from that group has the same values, beliefs, rituals and needs
    • promote and model inclusive behaviour – such as having notices or information available in a number of relevant languages for families
    • expand children’s awareness of difference through social events, books, songs or play materials
    • research biographical stories of local people and people from around the world and introduce these stories to children
    • encourage children to recognise and appreciate people for the things that make them unique and special
    • encourage children to view differences as something that makes a person interesting
    • support children to understand that just because somebody looks or sounds different, or does things in a different way, doesn’t mean that this person is any less worthy of respect or friendship
    • support all children to develop the skills necessary to form positive friendships regardless of differences in practices, languages and ethnic backgrounds.

    • provide opportunities for young people to listen to people from a range of backgrounds and their perspectives
    • promote and model inclusive behaviour – such as having notices or information available in a number of relevant languages for families
    • expand young people’s awareness of differences through curriculum material – this can provide young people with evidence that people who look or sound different to them are, at their core, really just like them
    • encourage discussion through such curriculum material
    • respect and understand that young people come from diverse backgrounds and have different cultural identities (including specific expectations of behaviour and communication)
    • respect individual differences and acknowledge that membership of a particular group doesn’t mean everyone from that group has the same values, beliefs, rituals and needs
    • encourage young people to recognise and appreciate people for the things that make them unique and special
    • teach young people about multicultural role models from various ethnicities, genders and fields
    • discuss the positives of differences and the way they can complement and enhance each other
    • role-model inclusive and respectful behaviour
    • support all young people to develop the social and emotional skills necessary to form positive friendships regardless of differences in practices, languages and ethnic backgrounds
    • be prepared to discuss diversity any time.

    Be You Professional Learning

    Check out tips for building mentally healthy learning communities in the module Understand, and how to promote inclusion and diversity within your learning community in the module Include.

  • You can also promote a whole-service or whole-school culture of appreciation for difference in all children and young people, regardless of their cultural background.

    Every family is different – you can ask families what’s important to them. Getting to know families at your service or school means there’s less chance of assumptions being made about backgrounds, cultures or practices. When you understand the experiences of families and their cultures, you’re better able to support children and young people’s development and learning.

    You can support children, young people and families from culturally diverse backgrounds by:
    • being welcoming and approachable
    • being accepting of differences and able to respect multiple ways of being
    • developing positive relationships with families – which can help you understand each other and work together and can help families build a sense of belonging and inclusion.
    • being open to different types of families – they can be small or large, may or may not be biologically related, and may include several generations.
    • encouraging opportunities for families and educators to develop connections with each other and opportunities to observe each other’s strengths and contributions
    • inviting diversity into the service or school and encouraging everyone to contribute their skills and interests to the service or school.
    • providing a range of opportunities for children, young people and their families to share their personal stories – to create an atmosphere of cultural respect and acknowledgement of diversity
    • creating community connections – families are better able to support their children and young people when they’re informed about and are connected to their community (for example, support services and social networks.
    • linking families with appropriate local services to provide support and assistance – some families may have experienced significant trauma and disruption in the process of moving to or settling in Australia
    • discussing possible differences in parenting with families, to avoid misunderstandings between families and educators, and confusion for children.
    When communicating with families from diverse backgrounds, you might like to consider the following:
    • When spoken or written English is a barrier, interpreters or translated material can help you communicate with families.
    • When working face-to-face with interpreters, always remember to talk with the family not to the interpreter.
    • Ask questions to ensure families understand what’s been said. Be mindful of the messages your environment sends about diversity. Respect for diversity is also communicated by what you have on display and the resources you have available. 
    Actively counter racism and discrimination 

    You can do this by promoting positive attitudes and practices regarding diversity among individuals and organisations. This includes identifying and challenging the kinds of practices that disadvantage or discriminate against those of different racial or cultural backgrounds and promoting inclusive practices in their place.

    You can also support families who have experienced racism by engaging in thoughtful conversations, demonstrating empathy and support, challenging prejudices, stereotypes and discriminatory behaviour, reviewing policies and practices to promote inclusion, increasing knowledge of accurate information to counter or dispel false beliefs regarding minority groups, and providing information about support services.

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2017). Media release: Census reveals a fast changing, culturally diverse nation. Canberra: ABS. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40.nsf/lookup/Media%20Release3.

    Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (2018). Valuing multiculturalism. Canberra: AHRC. Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.gov.au/education/students/hot-topics/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islanders-australia-s-first-peoples.

Last updated: November, 2019

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In today's world, with an ever-expanding demographic of residents entering long term care homes, it is critical to develop strategies that promote diversity and inclusion.

Cultural diversity has many dimensions; language, race, religious beliefs, ethnicity, etc. To support cultural diversity, care homes need what is known as cultural competence.

Cultural Competence is defined as a set of behaviors, attitudes, and practices that equip healthcare providers with the knowledge to deliver culturally appropriate care. It is so important to foster a workforce that is free of prejudice, bias, and stereotyping.

Two Essentials of Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is developed over time and includes self-awareness, guidance, training and experience. Embracing cultural diversity and promoting inclusion are two aspects of cultural competence.

Embracing cultural diversity means appreciating the differences in individuals from a variety of cultural and ethnic groups within an organization. Inclusion refers to the right of those groups to participate and have equity in all aspects of life.

A culture that celebrates cultural diversity & promotes inclusion must be interwoven into the framework of your facility's culture so that all residents feel like they belong. Residents must feel valued, respected, and unafraid to bring their backgrounds and perspectives to light.

Why Cultural Competence is Important

Unfortunately, studies indicate that there is often a disparity in the provision of quality care to residents from diverse cultural backgrounds. The reasons for these discrepancies vary from differences in beliefs and practices, language barriers, non-adherence to treatments, differences in lifestyle, thinking style, philosophy of life and other traits.

Unchallenged, this gap can lead to:

  • Inappropriate care
  • Social isolation
  • Discrimination and stereotyping
  • Emotional disturbances: frustration/sadness/depression
  • Ineffective Communication

How to Create a Culture of Inclusion

Staff can promote inclusion by being aware of the cultures represented in their organization and:

  • Paying attention to the nuances of each culture
  • Addressing communication barriers with interpreters and language cards
  • Protecting residents from all forms of discrimination by counseling anyone whose words and actions reflect ethnic prejudice
  • Including in Activity Programs engaging stories, deeds or triumphs regarding people from different countries
  • Responding to residents with respect, tolerance and compassion
  • Facilitating religious practices and needs
  • Being patient and understanding with long-held beliefs that are not among the dominant mainstream

Activity Program calendars should include cultural activities throughout the year. Celebrating and sharing food, music, and humour is one of the best ways to promote goodwill and tolerance.

Remember that you are there to integrate clients into your community. ‘Fitting-in' is important for everyone. Don't assume or generalize about how a client should behave without regard for individual differences and unique circumstances.

10 Tips for Embracing Cultural Diversity in Your Workplace

  1. Commit to boosting your own cultural competence by attending conferences and taking courses on cultural issues. Start by taking an interest in your colleagues from other countries.
  2. Remember that the golden rule "treat others as you would like to be treated" does not always apply when dealing with a diverse population. This proverb presumes that the person shares your worldview and passions. Instead, "Treat others the way they want to be treated" should be your guiding rule.
  3. Increase your pool of volunteers by attracting those who are sensitive to cultural issues and speak several languages.
  4. Involve residents' friends and relatives and encourage them to share recipes or volunteer for a cooking session.
  5. Celebrate clients' heritage with a ‘Finger Food Fest'. Have your kitchen staff prepare finger foods from the countries represented at your facility e.g. Dolmades, Falafel, Sushi, Samosas, Cornbread, Arepas, Fried Plantains.
  6. Feature a once-a-year party ‘Around the World in Fancy Dresses' where your clients can proudly showcase their traditional attire.
  7. Hold a poetry session with translated poems from famous non-English speaking poets relevant to your current residents like Pushkin, Rabindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and many others.
  8. Learn through phonetic dictionaries and translation cards the basic sentences and words of other languages.
  9. Establish procedures to identify and manage potential discrimination among staff and clients.
  10. Celebrate the national days of countries represented where you work. Read short, positive information about each country.