People face all sorts of barriers when they need assistance from a community service. In particular many people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds face attitudinal, cultural and linguistic barriers. Some barriers include:

Promotional issues

  • Unable to access information about the organisation (e.g. access to particular media or contact points, language difficulties)
  • Inappropriate promotional activities (e.g. gender issues, use of alcohol
  • Inappropriate images (e.g. Aboriginal sensitivities about deceased persons being portrayed or named)

Communication issues

  • Being unable to effectively communicate with staff without depending on interpreters, family or friends.
  • Feeling uncomfortable communicating in limited English
  • Literacy problems (e.g. documents only in English, unable to read in one’s own language)
  • Differences in meaning for common words
  • Cultural misconceptions and stereotypes

Structural issues

  • Lack an understanding within the organisation of cultural differences
  • Staff all drawn from the same ethno-social group
  • Decision-making systems that pre-suppose a particular ethno-social background
  • Timing of meetings and activities
  • Inappropriate service delivery (e.g. using non-accredited interpreters for formal purposes)

Trust issues

  • A bad personal experience with organisations of authority in the country of origin (e.g. cultural oppression  or genocide of minority groups)
  • A fear of community service providers (e.g. Aboriginal experience under Australia’s Assimilation Policy)
  • Concern about confidentiality (e.g. sharing personal information with other agencies and government departments)
  • Lack of sensitivity and respect for difference

To remove these barriers and ensure that your organisation is accessible across cultural boundaries you need to develop a cultural inclusion strategy that addresses every aspect of your organisation. 

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