​At a glance

“Australia’s population includes many people who were born overseas, have a parent born overseas or speak a variety of languages. Together, these groups of people are known as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.” (Australian Bureau of Statistics)

The adjustment to a new country, way of life and language can be stressful and isolating. This may be affected by the reason for migration, employment, social and economic strain, ability to speak English and the cultural differences between Australia and the person’s culture of origin.

Events prior to migration (such as trauma and exposure to violence), combined with experiences after migration (lack of support networks, discrimination, and in some cases uncertainty about visa status) can add to vulnerability within this community. Refugees will experience additional stressors, related both to the reasons they had to leave their home countries and their experiences in Australia.

Culture impacts on all aspects of a person’s life. Each CALD community, and each person within the community, is different. It is important to not stereotype.

When providing support to someone from a CALD background consider:

  • differences in expectations about family involvement in decision making
  • any impact of gender from their cultural perspective
  • potential fear of people perceived to be in authority
  • the significant impact that stigma, discrimination and trauma may have on their life
  • being patient when communicating and asking when unsure about something
  • asking questions in a way that the person understands, which may mean asking questions in a different way until you find the way that is best
  • some people will prefer a worker who speaks their language and understands their culture, while others will prefer someone from outside their community
  • using a professional interpreter (NB: Participants from CALD backgrounds can access free interpreter services when using the services of NDIS registered providers).

When working with someone from a CALD background, the best support will be provided using the same principles and approaches for working with all people with mental health conditions. This support needs to be culturally responsive and linguistically suitable.  Your support should include:

  • a recovery oriented approach: focussing on the person and their strengths, and not the condition
  • a holistic approach: considering physical, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual wellbeing
  • a person-centred approach: planning and decisions are driven by the person and their needs, interests and goals and an understanding of the intrinsic role that family, extended family, community, culture and cultural context play in the recovery journey for many people from CALD communities
  • a trauma-informed approach: providing support that incorporates an understanding of the impact of trauma on the lives of many people, including people from CALD communities (particularly refugees), and avoids traumatisation
  • empowerment: encouraging people to take control of their lives.

It is important to avoid stereotyping. Listen, ask and clarify, and build trust by being respectful, reliable and honest.


NSW Transcultural Mental Health Centre
This website includes a range of resources to assist health professionals to provide effective and culturally and linguistically appropriate services for clients.
Type: Web resources
Produced by: NSW Transcultural Mental Health Centre

Orientation To Cultural Responsiveness
This introductory resource, created by practitioners for practitioners, explores how to create culturally responsive mental health services.
Type: Web resource
Length: 6 modules
Produced by: Victorian Transcultural Mental Health

NDIS language interpreting services
This web page provides access to interpreters and translated NDIS information. (NB: Participants from CALD backgrounds can get free interpreter services when using the services of NDIS registered providers.)
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: NDIA

Working with culturally and linguistically diverse CALD communities - Tips for communication
This video offers practical tips and ideas from members of CALD communities on how to improve communication.
Type: Video
Viewing time: 3:05
Closed captions: Available
Produced by: TAS Government

Working with culturally and linguistically diverse CALD communities – Tips and advice
This video offers tips and advice about working with CALD communities by members of CALD communities.
Type: Video
Viewing time: 2:40
Closed captions: Available
Produced by: TAS Government

Supporting culturally and linguistically diverse people
This web page provides an overview of supporting people from a CALD background with links to online mental health resources.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Produced by: Head to Health

Work with diverse people
This free online learning course covers cultural awareness, development of culturally diverse relationships, creating cultural communications, and dealing with misunderstandings and conflict. In order to access this training, you will need to set up an account.
Type: eLearning
Produced by: QCOSS Community Door

Current as at: Monday 2 May 2022
Contact page owner: Mental Health