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Why it is important to understand a family's culture

For migrant and refugee children and families, the journey from their country of origin to Australia can vary from a planned trip to a journey that was unforeseen, sudden, dangerous and exhausting.

Once in Australia, a family’s experiences of resettlement can also be different. This can depend on how well they are linked in with the community and whether they have the resources, including language and knowledge, to access supports.

Understand culture for better risk assessment

Knowledge and understanding of a child and their family’s migrant or refugee experience will help to assess risk so that effective action plans can be developed to manage any mental health issues. It will also help to make sure the family is connected to community and professional support. To understand more about a family’s culture, ask them:

  • What languages or dialects are spoken at home?
  • What culture and religion does the family identify with?
  • How does the family practise their culture and religion?
  • What cultural and religious activities are the family involved in?
  • What are the family’s interests? How do they spend time together?
  • How much contact, if any, does the family have with people in their cultural community?
  • If the family is not well connected, why not? Are they marginalised from their community or more generally socially isolated? What does this mean for the parents? For the child?
  • What contact do they have with people outside of their cultural community?

Every child and family has their own approach to culture

Every child and family is unique and so is their relationship to their culture and community. Be aware that some families will have little or no ties to a cultural community, while some will have multiple cultural influences, customs and languages. Children who have parents from multiple cultures or countries may need support and connection to both cultures.

It is important not to stereotype or make assumptions based on a family’s cultural background. Remember that the family are the experts in their culture, so ask them questions to understand their story. This is a good way to engage with and empower the family.

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