Responsiveness of Australian Government Services to CALD Population

Submission in response to discussion paper from ‘Inquiry into the Responsiveness of Australian Government Services to Australia’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Population’
(February 2012)
Federation of Ethnic Community Councils Australia
Department of Immigration and Citizenship

There are two groups of older people in the CALD community. There are those who came here as young migrants and have aged here and then there those who have come here when they are older, usually as part of family reunion. The former group may have a better understanding of Australian society and how to find what they need but still will need extra assistance and will need to have their cultural and
linguistic needs met by services. The latter group may have a greater need for advocacy and information services to ensure we promote their independence and give them the support they need.

This submission incorporates the views of our members developed through various consultation mechanisms. In particular COTA Tasmania provided a number of key comments from a workshop involving key stakeholders. It also draws upon the discussions at the 2010 Diversity and Ageing in Action Forum in NSW. A copy of the Proceedings of that Forum is attached for your information.

COTA believes that the access and equity strategy pursued in Australia has made an important contribution to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds being able to fully participate in our society and have full citizenship rights.

One of its strengths has been that it covers all Australian Government services thus ensuring that the CALD community can indeed have some confidence that they will be assisted to avail themselves of the same services as other Australians. We think it is important that this universal coverage be retained.

The key point that emerges from our discussion of these issues with our members and other stakeholders is the need to have adequate and continuous cultural awareness training for staff and volunteers and have a process to embed this in the service delivery model.

Another key theme is the need for advocacy services so that people can receive assistance to help navigate the service system. Added to this is the need for enhanced funding for interpreter services which is seen as critical to improving people’s ability to find and deal with the services that they need.

COTA looks forward to seeing the final report from the Inquiry and to working with DIAC and FECCA to ensure the needs of older people from the CALD communities are included in any future developments