Young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds make up a significant portion of the Canberra community, with almost 14% of young people in the ACT born overseas and over 6,500 young people in Canberra who speak languages other than English at home.[1]

These young people can face many barriers including language, social isolation, racism and discrimination and lack of access to a range of services. This can cause multiple disadvantages and can compound the challenges they may experience as young people.

In order to best meet the needs of cultural groups it is essential that workers have a broad cultural awareness. They need to understand and be responsive to the cultural and linguistic diversity of young people so that their services can be appropriate and inclusive.

Strategies For Working With Refugee And Newly Arrived Young People

Sometimes it is hard to know what questions are safe to ask a person who is newly arrived to Australia. It can be hard to understand the experience that refugees go through to reach a safe country. Perhaps it is hard to relate to the horrific stories we hear and see through the media about countries and homes refugees have fled. Perhaps we have not had the experience of talking to someone who looks a little different and speaks a different language. There is a difference between a migrant and a refugee. A migrant makes a conscious choice to leave home and settle in another country. A refugee is forced to leave home due to a fear of persecution and often flee in fear of their lives.[2]

The following information may help you to communicate with a young person.

It is ok to ask:

  • A person where they come from.
  • It is ok to ask about the sports people have played before.
  • It is ok to ask what someone likes to do.
  • It is ok to ask what someone does for work or school or what they would like to do.
  • It is ok to ask what they did before they came to Australia.
  • It is ok to ask what a person’s country is like. Be sensitive to the fact a person may come from a war zone and may not want to discuss this. However, most people will be happy to talk about their home country and will usually tell you fond memories of where they grew up.
  • It is ok to ask about a person’s family. Be sensitive to the fact that family and friends may have died or may have been unable to flee the country they come from.

When communicating with multicultural young people:

  • Make it visual;
  • Show and tell;
  • Give it time;
  • Keep it simple;
  • Say it again;
  • Assume confusion;
  • Get help;
  • Walk in their shoes;
  • Smile, don’t laugh; and,
  • It’s ok to say you don’t understand.

[1] ACT Government (2002) Youth in the ACT: A Social and Demographic Profile p16

[2] National Council of Churches Australia (Nov 2007) Protecting Refugees: Definitions and Terms.

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