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Harnessing culture as a protection and strength

The intrinsic way that culture can influence an individual, family and community is at the heart of your work in building safety for children in CALD families.

You need to see culture as a strength. It can strengthen resilience, connection and meaning to a person’s way of life and the things they value. Being willing to explore culture and being confident in your curiosity to ask and talk about it with parents is vital.

Understanding a parent’s ‘cultural base’ (Houseman, 2003) will help you understand how they might interpret or feel about their problematic alcohol and other drugs use, treatment or supports. Explore their values, perceptions, roles and experiences. Understanding these will enable you to reveal strengths and build protection with parents, families and communities for children.

Talking about the cultural base

In finding out about the context of the migration of the parent and family, use these sorts of questions:

  • What made you leave your country?
  • What were things like in your country before you left?
  • Did you feel like you had a choice in leaving?
  • How did you get to Australia?
  • What was it like to come here?
  • Are you an Australian resident?
  • What were your hopes in coming to Australia?

Belonging to a subgroup

Consider other groups that the child, parent or family may also be a part of that may influence their vulnerabilities or protection from problematic alcohol and other drugs use. Consider their:

  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • current area and suburb
  • status as refugees or migrants
  • religion.

Degree to which their culture influences them

Consider how the child, parent and family hold traditional values and beliefs in Australia. You may find this is different for each member or generation of the family.

  • Traditional—do they completely follow the beliefs, values and behaviours of their country of origin?
  • Bicultural—do they hold a mix of new and old beliefs, values and behaviours?
  • Acculturated—have they modified their old beliefs, values and behaviours in an attempt to adjust the new ones?
  • Assimilated—have they completely given up their old beliefs, values and behaviours and adopted those of the new country?

Younger generations are more likely to acculturate or assimilate than their parents and grandparents. This can cause conflict and confusion within families, particularly if a young person from a CALD background experiments with or develops their own problematic alcohol and other drugs use. Read more about this in Working with young people and alcohol and other drugs use.

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