Cultural Considerations

Australia is sometimes described as the most multicultural society on earth. More than 6 million people have migrated to Australia since 1949. 

There were many cultural and language groups in Australia prior to European settlement. While many of these languages have been lost, many survive. Some have combined with European languages to form Creole languages. Across the north of Australia, these are now the most widely spoken indigenous languages. More than 6 million people have migrated to Australia since 1949. [1]

Australians now speak more than 400 languages (including Indigenous languages) and identify with more than 270 ancestries. More than 3 million Australians (15.6% of the population) speak a language other than English at home.  Almost 20% of people who do not speak English at home are not proficient in spoken English, but for people over 65 this increases to more than 40%. [2]

The Accreditation Standards for Residential Age Care require that 'individual interests, customs, beliefs and cultural and ethnic backgrounds are valued and fostered'. [3] The Competency Standards for Registered Nurses [4] require those nurses' 'practise in a way that acknowledges the dignity, culture, values, beliefs and rights of individuals and groups'.

Providing culturally safe care at the end-of-life requires:

  • people caring for culturally diverse populations to be aware of the influence of their own cultural beliefs on their practice
  • sensitivity to the cultural practices and beliefs of others
  • staff with training and skills in culturally safe practices
  • use of professional interpreting services (not family) in all conversations with non-English speaking residents involving issues of significant information
  • organisational commitment that recognises and supports cultural diversity among residents and staff. [5]
  • Useful Tip

Although a person may identify as belonging to a specific cultural or religious group, it does not follow that they necessarily follow all of the customs or beliefs associated with that identity. The only way to know is to ask “Are there religious or cultural practices that affect the way you wish to be cared for?”

Support for CALD programs

The Department of Social Services provides support to RAC to care for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds (CALD). The department also funds one organisation in each state to support RAC to provide culturally appropriate care through the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) program.

There is funding support to access interpreters through the Department of Home Affairs Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS). This translating service can be accessed from Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) National and it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on (Phone) 131 450.

The National ageing and aged care strategy for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds is available at the Department of Social Services website.

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Feature Article 2: Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity [Internet]. Canbera: The Bureau; 2010 [cited 2016 Jan 22]; ABS cat. no. 1301.0.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Feature Article 3: Languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - A uniquely Australian heritage [Internet]. Canbera: The Bureau; 2010 [cited 2016 Jan 22]; ABS cat. no. 1301.0.
  3. Australian Government. Quality of care principles 2014 [Internet]. Canberra: ComLaw; 2015 [cited 2016 Jan 22].
  4. Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). National competency standards for the registered nurse. Melbourne: NMBA; 2006 January. (210kb pdf)
  5. Nguyen HT. Patient centred care: cultural safety in indigenous health. Aust Fam Physician. 2008 Dec;37(12):990-4.

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Other Resources

  • Dementia Australia SA has created a multicultural smartphone app ‘Cultura’, developed to support health professionals in the provision of culturally sensitive dementia care. The app helps us to better relate and communicate with individuals from different cultures, enabling us in providing culturally appropriate support and care.
  • In this video by The Palliative Care Bridge, Mary Ashton and Mandy Muir discuss Care of people from different faiths
  • A video from the School of Midwifery at Flinders University (SA) Lauren Woodford (Occupational Therapist) - What cultural sensitivities can arise in Palliative Care?
  • The Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing is a Victorian based organisation addressing the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds by supporting aged care organisations to provide appropriate care and support to residents and families.
    The organisation's website has a resources page that provides information relevant to aged care for health professionals, including: Aged care signage (available in multiple languages)
  • Palliative Care Australia produced the Multicultural palliative care guidelines (1999) (589kb pdf).
  • Palliative Care Victoria also has information available in many languages on the Multicultural page of the website including:
    • What is Palliative Care
    • Facts about Morphine
    • Asking Questions.
  • Calvary Health Care has produced a resource for health professionals on Bereavement support across cultures.
Last updated 29 September 2018