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Considerations for working with culturally and linguistically diverse young people

A variety of cultures, a range of experiences

Young people and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds need your respectful curiosity, your open mind and your commitment to partner with them.

Cultures and religions are diverse and dynamic, which means people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are not homogenous.

There are a number of important considerations that need to be kept in mind in relation to ‘culture’ and ‘cultural identity’, including:

  • Everyone has a cultural identity; however, it is not always recognised or defined by the person themselves. Sometimes, culture is seen simply as ‘just the way we do things’.
  • Culture and cultural identity are dynamic and constantly changing.
  • People may be influenced by and identify with more than one culture or cultural group.
  • it is the choice of the individual as to which culture they identify with, regardless of their cultural background.

Stigma and racism

Everyone has cultural biases. This does not mean that you are racist or that you discriminate against people based on their culture. It means that what you think and feel about a certain culture is learned through your own experience, the media, your upbringing, peers and colleagues—and it may not be true. The generalised assumptions that parts of the society may hold towards different groups can cause stigmatism, racism and social isolation.

Without reflecting on and acknowledging our cultural biases, we run the risk of perpetuating stigma and racism towards culturally different individuals and communities.

Young people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background making the transition to adulthood will have unique needs.

Developing an understanding of a young person’s familial and childhood experiences should form part of any planning process and is not unique to this group of young people. However, ensuring that you have considered your own bias in relation to cultural difference, and seeing the young person’s culture, community and identity as a source of strength, is an essential element in effective planning.

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. The Queensland Government has an obligation to provide effective, efficient and inclusive services through the appropriate use of interpreters and translators to a person who has difficulty communicating in English or is hearing impaired.

Culture as a strength

Culture can be a protective factor for a young person and will form an integral part of their identity.

Cultural communities and networks may provide support and refuge for young people, even if they have been unable to remain in their family. You may be able to draw on community or religious leaders who are identified by the young person or family, as part of the safety and support network for the young person as part of the transition planning process.

Cultural practices or faith may be a form of resilience for the young person and can help them to stay connected to culture.

A strong sense of culture can strengthen a child’s self-esteem, sense of identity and belonging. Young people who are not connected to family and are not visible in or supported by their communities as they leave the care of the department and transition to adulthood are more vulnerable to harm or exploitation.

Experiences of trauma

Research suggests that refugees are likely to have experienced trauma. This could include experiencing or witnessing torture, physical and sexual assault, family separation or massacre, illegal arrests, imprisonment or destruction of personal property.

These experiences have a profound, long-term effect on the wellbeing of young people and their family members, can undermine their sense of safety and belonging and their ability to trust others and develop relationships, and can lead to a myriad of physical, mental and spiritual concerns.

Being aware of the possibility of trauma experiences helps us in engaging with young people and their families.

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