Skip to main navigation Skip to main content


When working with migrant or refugee families, seek cultural advice where possible, to increase understanding of the family. Ask the senior team leader or manager for guidance where to seek this advice locally.

Where a conversation with a specialist practitioner is not available, access online resources to get yourself up-to-speed.

The SBS Cultural Atlas

Use the SBS Cultural Atlas to find out a bit more about the cultural background of the family you are working with – the Atlas is an educational resource providing comprehensive information on the cultural background of Australia’s migrant populations.

Cultural Awareness Tool — Understanding Cultural Diversity in Mental Health


Review this easy-to-read tool from Multicultural Mental Health Australia for additional assistance.

Why planning is important

Work with a family will be more effective when practitioners are aware of cultural differences and the role culture may play for both the family and their community.

There are differences in how people from different cultures communicate and express meaning or emotion, including eye contact and body language. There are also different cultural norms around communicating between men and women, showing respect and greeting people.

To make the most of your intervention, prepare thoughts and questions to help understand the child, family and community.

What to consider about the child

Read the practice advice from the Working with children part of this kit. Seek advice to help you draft questions that are respectful of the child’s culture. Here are some considerations:

Practice considerations Questions

What cultural information do I need to know so I can:

  • talk to the child
  • understand the child’s relationship with their parents and other family members
  • understand the language that the child may use to talk about mental health and mental health issues
  • know what cultural practices may help to keep the child safe and to heal
  • understand what the child might be scared about if they talk about their parent’s mental health issues.

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 un/safe?

What cultural norms and beliefs should I be aware of when engaging with this child about mental health and illness?

What social responses may the child experience in relation to their parents experiences of mental health issues?

What’s the best approach I can take in talking with the child about their parent’s mental health issues? 

What to consider about community leaders

It is important to build relationships with recognised or respected elders and community leaders to assist to build better networks of support that will help the family. This may be something that the broader team or service centre might undertake. Community leaders are generally trusted and authoritative individuals with a broad range of skills and experience.

Leaders give advice about a range of family issues such as marriage, parenting, intergenerational conflict and other issues. Families may seek support from religious leaders for spiritual guidance when they are worried about mental health or mental health issues.

Practice considerations 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 mental health and mental health issues.

Have members of this community been here for many years, or are they an emerging community group? (This may have relevance when referring to culturally appropriate services).

Have I already established a 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 mental health and mental health issues?


Version history

Back to top

Published on:

Last reviewed:

  • Date: 
  • Date: 
    Page created