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Cultural consultation

Meaningful cultural consultation

Your first contact with a family plays a pivotal role in how your relationship unfolds over time. Because of this, it is important to be aware of cultural differences and the role culture may play for the family and its members.

Think about who you could speak to who has cultural authority to help you understand cultural perceptions of gender roles, marriage, relationships and raising children. Cultural consultation can also help you identify the way gender, culture and class (or socio-economic background) intersect with a father’s decision to use violence.

Culturally and linguistically diverse mothers often seek support to end the violence but not to end the relationship. They may hope that service providers will explain Australian law to the man, intervene in specific situations, or give ongoing personal support and safety planning.

Do not encourage separation, divorce or an end to contact with violent family members. It is critical that initial discussions with clients are framed around establishing ‘healthy relationships’ and ‘strong families’ rather than on encouraging separation.

Questions to consider asking a person with cultural authority

To make the most of your consultation, prepare questions to help you understand the child, family and community. You may wish to refer to the table conversations from the part of this practice kit that focuses on working with fathers who use violence.

About the child

Practice consideration Consultation questions

What cultural information do I need to have so I can understand:

  • the child and their relationship with parents and family?
  • how the child talks about violence?
  • what cultural practices may help to keep the child safe and to heal?
  • what the child might be scared about if they talk about the violence?
  • What languages does this child speak?
  • What culture or religion does the child identify with?
  • How is this child progressing at school?
  • Does the child identify safe people in their family or community?
  • Does the child identify people in their family or community as unsafe?
  • What cultural norms and beliefs should I be aware of when engaging with this child?
  • What social responses may the child experience in relation to the violence?
  • How can I talk to the child about the violence?
  • What is the best approach?
    What words should/shouldn’t I use?
  • How should I talk to the child about my worries?

 

About the mother

You may wish to refer to the conversation table from the part of this practice kit that focuses on working with mothers. While some of the ideas will be helpful, others may not work with mothers with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. New ones may also need to be added in order to craft questions that are respectful of the mothers’ culture.

Practice considerations Consultation questions

What cultural information do I need to know so I understand the mothers’ perspectives and treat her with dignity?

  • What is this mothers’s understanding of domestic violence?
  • What does she know about Australia’s legal system?
  • Does she know that domestic violence is a crime?
  • What is this mother’s expectation of gender roles?
  • Has this mother sought help with domestic violence in the past?
  • Who did she talk to about this?
  • Are there culturally appropriate services available for referrals? If so, will there be any problems with confidentiality?
  • Is there anyone who this mother feels able to talk to about what is happening in her family?

 

About the father using violence

It is important to make fathers a part of your effort to reduce violence against mothers.

The Hearing her voice report made it clear that fathers need to be more educated about what domestic and family violence is, and encouraged to take responsibility for it. Mothers who took part in the report were critical of the way anti-violence messages were often targeted towards them, when it was the behaviour of fathers that needed to change. The report notes that a number of participants felt some fathers struggle to adjust to gender roles in Australia that may contrast significantly to those in their country of origin.

You may wish to refer to the table conversations from the part of this practice kit that focuses on working with fathers.

Practice consideration Consultation questions

What cultural information do I need to know in order to:

  • engage with the father to understand the man’s relationship with the woman, children or other family members?
  • understand the way that the father may minimise, deny and blame others?
  • know how to talk to the father about violence and what may motivate him to change his behaviours?
  • understand which people in the community may help to make him accountable?
  • What is this father’s understanding of domestic violence?
  • What is this father’s understanding of the legal system in Australia?
  • Does he know that domestic violence is a crime?
  • What is this father’s expectation of gender roles?
  • Does this father acknowledge that domestic violence is causing problems in his house?
  • Would he like things to be different?
  • Does he understand how violence affects his children?

 

Note

‘They [men] can struggle with new experiences such as unemployment and their partner’s access to economic independence. The women saw a need for these men to learn non-violent ways of resolving family conflicts. Participants commented that training for men on ‘healthy relationships’ could be offered in non-threatening environments in order to inspire self-reflection.’

Hearing her voice (2015)

About the family

The following considerations and questions may help you in preparing to work with a family.

Practice consideration Consultation questions

What cultural information do I need to know in order to:

  • engage with the family to understand the family dynamics?
  • understand the language the family may use to talk about family violence?
  • understand the family’s relationship with the community?
  • assess the family’s ability to keep the child safe?
  • know what cultural practices may help to keep the child safe and to heal?
  • understand what the woman might be scared about if she talks about the violence?
  • know whether the woman is able to speak without a male leader, father or husband present?
  • What language is spoken at home?
    How well does the mother, father or carer speak English?
  • Is an interpreter required?
  • How is this family viewed by their community?
  • Do they hold particular status or power?
  • How long has this family been in Australia?
  • What do we know about the pre-migration experience of the family?
  • What does this family know about Child Safety?
  • Is domestic violence a crime in this family’s country of origin?
  • Do I need to speak with the mother and father together?
  • Is religion a consideration for this family?

 

About community

It is important that you build relationships with recognised leaders in the community in order to exchange ideas, build better networks of support, and be clear about what is legal and what a family can expect if they become involved with Child Safety.

Community leaders are generally trusted and authoritative individuals with a broad range of skills and experience. They are often consulted on a range of family issues such as marriage, parenting, intergenerational conflict and other issues.

They may be asked to give advice and to work together with the family to respond to family violence. Families also go to religious leaders to get spiritual guidance for mothers experiencing violence and to grant a separation or divorce.

The role of community and religious leaders in addressing violence against women can be a contentious topic among women of diverse cultures. Mothers from a diverse background who experience violence are likely to confide in these leaders as a first point of contact or for ongoing support, but leaders are not necessarily equipped for this role.

Learn more about the community and community leaders a mother and her family may turn to for help. It is important to find out if the leader is a protective factor for the mother and her children, or if their advice is likely to place them at further risk of harm.

Practice considerations Consultation questions

What cultural information do I need to know in order to:

  • build trust with the community?
  • understand the community’s relationship with the family?
  • assess the community’s ability to keep the child safe?
  • assess the impact of the community on the risk to the child?
  • understand language that may be used by the community to talk about violence?
  • understand the role of community leaders in terms of domestic and family violence?
  • How long has this community been established in Australia?
  • Have members of this community been here for many years, or are they an emerging community group? (This may be significant when referring to culturally appropriate services.)
  • Do I have an established relationship with significant people in this community? If so, how may they be able to help my work? If not, who could help me to build these relationships?
  • What messages do leaders in this community give about violence and gender equality?
  • What is the impact of the refugee experience, particularly the impacts of torture and trauma?

 

Tip

Language barriers can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to access basic services, information and supports, especially in times of stress or emotional duress.

When a person has difficulty communicating in English or is hearing impaired, the Queensland Government has an obligation to provide effective, efficient and inclusive services through the appropriate use of interpreters and translators as per the Queensland Language Service Policy (QLSP) for DCSYW. If a family chooses a formal interpreting service, the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is an interpreting service provided by the Department of Home Affairs for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

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