Connecting culturally diverse Australians to palliative care information

Connecting culturally diverse Australians to palliative care information

A blog post written by Helena Kyriazopoulos, CEO, Multicultural Communities Council of SA

Australia is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in world. Almost half of our population are born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. [1] Aside from English, we speak an estimated 300+ languages.

Our cultural diversity is evident in everything we do. We see it when we go out and travel, dine, shop, or go to healthcare settings. Indeed, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians have long been and are actively contributing to our country’s progressive economic, cultural, and social landscapes.

Our general community’s understanding of palliative care is slowly growing. However, if we add another layer of language, culture, and ethnic background, we find people who have little to no understanding of what palliative care means, or the services which are available to them.

Culturally diverse Australians face significant barriers in accessing palliative care services and supports. [2] Adding to this concern is that 37% of older Australians aged 65 and over were born overseas and that 20% of people aged 65 and over in 2016 were born in a non-English speaking country. [3] Palliative care services and organisations thus need to be able to support the end-of-life care needs of our culturally diverse Australians.

In 2020, the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA), Palliative Care South Australia, and the Cantonese, Croatian, Greek, Mandarin, Spanish and Ukrainian communities in the state initiated a project to begin the difficult conversations about palliative care within their own communities. The topic of death and dying, and the concept of palliative care and advance care directives found resistance in the communities for reasons such as:

  • Death and dying are seen as taboo subjects
  • Some communities saw it as bad luck to discuss death and dying and to get their affairs in order with wills and advance care directives
  • Lack of information written in their language
  • For those who were aware of what palliative care is, many felt that health services and professionals did not understand their cultural or spiritual needs or that they had language support.

Our project provided the five community groups with information and training resources to share and discuss the topics with their communities. CareSearch has supported our project by developing a series of podcasts for the five communities on the following topics:

    1. What is palliative care?
    2. Plan early
    3. Palliative care services
    4. What matters most (talking about end-of-life care and preferences)
    5. Pain management and symptoms
    6. Financial services

Over seven months, we saw a positive change in the knowledge and attitudes about palliative care in the participating communities.

CareSearch is an important resource for diverse communities as the portal provides generic information on CALD communities for professionals to better understand their needs. The information in the portal can serve as a starting point, keeping in mind that it is always important to ask individuals and understand their specific palliative care needs.

Being online, CareSearch also makes it easier for our diverse communities to access information when they need it. MCCSA is proud to work collaboratively with the CareSearch team in the development of the new portal.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Cultural Diversity in Australia [Internet]. Canberra ACT: ABS; 2017 [updated 2017 June 28; cited 2021 Oct 6].
  2. Australian Government Department of Health. Exploratory Analysis of Barriers to Palliative Care – Issues Report on People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds [Internet]. Canberra ACT: DoH; 2020 [updated 2020 Jan 13; cited 2021 Oct 6].
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Older Australia at a glance [Internet]. Canberra ACT: AIHW; 2018 [updated 2018 Sept 10; cited 2021 Oct 6].

Profile picture of Helena Kyriazopoulos


Helena Kyriazopoulos, CEO at Multicultural Communities Council of SA


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The views and opinions expressed in Palliative Perspectives are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.