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Alcohol and other drugs use in culturally and linguistically diverse families and communities

Australia has a large culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) population. In 2016, 26% of Australia’s population was born overseas. There were over 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes and 21% of Australians spoke a language other than English.

Ethnic background is not a risk factor for problematic alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. Many cultural values, norms and ways of being can act as protective factors against problematic AOD use. However, CALD communities do experience some unique challenges that can impact on their vulnerability.

Vulnerabilities for culturally and linguistically diverse families

These include:

  • grief and loss
  • racism and discrimination
  • religious bigotry
  • torture and trauma as refugees or asylum seekers
  • undiagnosed mental health problems
  • isolation, disconnection from culture and community
  • exposure to AOD not previously experienced
  • living somewhere where AOD use is the social norm
  • difficulty with a new language
  • difficulty finding their place in a new community
  • conflict between their first country’s culture and the Australian culture
  • money problems
  • unemployment or underemployment because qualifications are not recognised in Australia
  • stigma and shame associated with AOD use in some cultures

Protective factors for culturally and linguistically diverse families

However, the protective factors can include:

  • strong support networks in the community
  • close relationships with friends and family
  • open communication between children and parents
  • feeling of belonging to a community
  • spiritual or religious practice
  • friends who don’t drink alcohol or use drugs
  • good role models within their community
  • a culture or religion that discourages alcohol and drug use.

Data on alcohol and other drugs use

Pharmaceuticals for non-medical use are the drugs most commonly used among people from CALD backgrounds (3.4%). People from this group are:

  • less likely to consume AOD compared to people whose primary language spoken at home is English
  • more likely to report never smoking (82.6%), compared with those whose primary language spoken at home is English (59.5%)
  • more likely than those whose primary language spoken at home is English to not consume alcohol (49.4% compared to 18.9%) or illicit drugs (54.2% compared to 82.3%).

Limited data is available on alcohol and other drug use in the CALD population in Australia.

(Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018)

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