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Advice for councils: Engaging with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) businesses and communities

NSW is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) States in the world. Across NSW we have more than 307 ancestries, 215 different languages and dialects spoken, and 148 different religions being followed.

With such rich diversity, communicating effectively with our CALD businesses and communities plays a key role in helping to support local economies to thrive. Not only do they add to the diversity and vibrancy of a community, they can help enhance its economic position, encourage new as well as sustain existing businesses, and strengthen social cohesion in an area.

Ways to engage well with CALD communities

Create a valuable customer experience

As citizens of NSW, we all have a responsibility to uphold and promote equality for everyone within a cohesive and multicultural society. These basic principles should be front of mind when working or communicating with those of a CALD background, to ensure they have a positive and valuable experience.

Consider these tips to achieve this:

Demonstrate strong leadership on diversity

Senior Leaders demonstrate a strong commitment to valuing diversity, and engaging with CALD communities.

Respect and understand differences

  • Create or educate on a multicultural policy your council may have. Multicultural NSW (MNSW) has guidelines, templates and can also support development of multicultural planning.
  • Make training available on multicultural awareness for frontline and key staff.

Create a sense of community

  • Celebrate and recognise any key events and milestones important to your community groups.
  • Engage with your community groups to build trust, awareness and understanding.

Tailor your service

  • Adjust where appropriate to appointments or application time frames that can help solve specific needs of the CALD community.
  • Have free interpreter or translation services available to help. MNSW has Language Services Guidelines that offers information on working with interpreters.
  • Arrange more private or comfortable meeting spaces, if required, to accommodate specific needs to help ensure a smooth transaction.

Have guidance and resources available in the CALD community’s language

  • Translate your most commonly used applications or forms to guide users.
  • Work with your local migrant services to provide information in translated form.

Don’t just hear, really listen

  • Ensure your CALD communities have a voice with the rest of the community.
  • Include CALD community during consultations, engagement and reviews of council policies, plans or process changes.
  • Provide support through specific CALD information sessions, educational or training programs.

Understand communication preferences

Using interpreters or translated documents can be more effective and efficient but it can also help empower the individual and the community. Councils could consider setting up their service points to better accommodate community needs by implementing some of the following:

  • Face to face or phone communication is considered a more comfortable way to interact in a customer service environment. Additional communication styles, including appropriate tone of voice or gestures, will help bridge language gaps.
  • Ensure that contact details are easy to find for those who prefer making face to face contact and don’t want to use a digital platform.
  • Expand your communication channels to include different mediums. Consider using icons, infographics, social media or videos in addition to traditional text content.
  • Official looking forms, letters or notices could trigger a person of CALD background to seek help from a professional service which they would have to pay for. As much as possible, be clear and concise in your information and communicate in plain English.

Upskill your service teams

Here are some ideas to improve and leverage your engagement with CALD communities:

  • holding cultural competency training for all staff, or at least your frontline and stakeholder engagement staff
  • promoting the use of bi-lingual staff and establish financial incentives for staff to use their bi-lingual skills.

Best practice checklist in delivering CALD content

This is a suggested actions checklist to help raise the standard of your service to CALD communities.

1. For frontline and traditional engagement

  • Local government and funded organisations should employ language services provided by interpreters and translators who are certified at the highest possible level available through NAATI
  • Plan and budget to include NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters) accredited interpretation and translation in your service
  • Bi-lingual staff may be used within the low-risk communications where interpreting is not necessary but may assist with service provision (giving directions). Interactions that have significant decision-making implications, such as asking a client to sign a consent form, are higher risk and are situations where a certified interpreter should be employed.
  • Bi-lingual staff should pass the bi-lingual examination conducted by Multicultural NSW, have NAATI certification or have a language recognition award from NAATI.
  • Translate frequently used forms and material in the languages which are most relevant to your LGA.
  • Make staff and customers aware that they can access staff who are trained to support CALD customers at a higher level.
  • Train frontline staff in cultural awareness to support them to provide a high level of service to customers
  • Apply plain English rules into conversations, emails and other written content.

2. For digital channels – website, social media

  • Consider specific needs of CALD customers during the phases of designing a service or product, that is, during research, journey mapping, persona creation and testing
  • Consider digital products that will have features for language customisation and is compatible with translation software.
  • Include images and icons throughout content.
  • Have video and written content that is clear, simple and in plain English.

Common mistakes to avoid

Some of the most common mistakes include:

  • Avoid putting important information or resources on inaccessible formats such as hosting PDF or Word documents.
  • Don’t rely on the customer’s family member or friend to facilitate the translation of communication.
  • Don’t become inflexible at the cost of considering the needs of your CALD client who may need additional time or support to understand your processes.
  • Don’t rely on Google Translate as an effective communication tool with CALD communities. It is simply not enough to just ‘copy and paste’ your content in lieu of properly accredited translation services.

Connect with the experts

Multicultural NSW is the lead agency for implementing policy and legislative frameworks supporting multicultural principles in NSW. They can help by:

  • providing advice and support on the development and implementation of multicultural plans, policy and services
  • offering grants, resources and tools to engage with CALD communities through events, projects and activities fostering community engagement, harmony and social cohesion
  • supporting initiatives that:
    • respond to community issues through the Regional Advisory Council network
    • promote cultural, religious diversity and social harmony
  • provide NSW Government Language Guidelines, interpretation & translation services, as well as Bi-lingual (NAATI) certification for CALD staff who are eligible.

Office of Local Government has developed a useful resource for NSW councils to support multicultural planning regardless of size or demographic makeup.