At the last census in 2021, more than 2.2 million NSW residents spoke a language other than English at home, which is over 27% of the population. More than half of all people living in NSW were either born overseas, or have a parent who was born overseas. NSW Health’s policies, plans and services recognise, respect and embrace the linguistic and cultural diversity of our people.

Multicultural and refugee health policies

The NSW Health system has policies, plans and services to ensure safe, quality health care for all people living within our state. The NSW Plan for Healthy Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities aims to improve our systems and processes to promote better health for NSW residents from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This is complemented by the NSW Refugee Health Plan which sets out NSW Health’s commitment to the health of people in NSW from refugee backgrounds.

NSW Health care interpreting services

NSW Health provides free, confidential and professional interpreting services to patients, families and carers who do not speak English fluently or who are Deaf, when they use public health services. NSW Health provides access to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week interpreting services, either onsite or by telephone in over 120 languages, including Auslan.

In any healthcare situation where communication is essential, health practitioners must engage health care interpreters for patients who are not fluent in English, including people who are deaf. This is critical to ensure accessible, safe and high quality services. Health practitioners are responsible for assessing a patient’s need for an interpreter and arranging an interpreter to assist. Members of the public cannot book health care interpreters directly.

The policy directive Interpreters - Standard Procedures for Working with Health Care Interpreters describes when and how NSW Health staff must engage and work with health care interpreters. It includes what to do in an emergency or if a health care interpreter is not available.

Specialist multicultural and refugee health services

Statewide specialist multicultural and refugee health services develop and implement initiatives across NSW to increase the capacity of the health system and provide targeted services. Specialist multicultural health services work with specific populations, such as refugees, people living with HIV and people needing mental health services. They also work on specific areas of policy focus, such as communications, media campaigns, health promotion and translations.

Specialist multicultural health services also assist to increase the capacity of the NSW Health system by providing training for mainstream health staff, policy advice, and assessment and treatment for consumers. Statewide services are hosted by local health districts across NSW.

Multilingual health information

Multilingual health information is available to help patients, carers and communities who do not read English as a first language.  All translated NSW Health information is made available on the NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service website.

The NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service also provides advice on multilingual health communication initiatives with culturally and linguistically diverse communities.


Statewide events acknowledge, promote and celebrate cultural diversity across NSW Health services. Please contact your local health district representative for more information about these events and other activities throughout the year.


Please contact the local health district representative for more information. 

Current as at: Thursday 1 December 2022