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People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds

7. People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds

A judicial officer with a proper understanding of the importance of language and cultural differences will be able to evaluate the extent to which the witness’s demeanour, language and behaviour are attributable to general characteristics of that person’s ethnic group rather than to his or her individual personality. FootnoteRoberts-Smith L, “Communication Breakdown: The Importance of Cultural Language Awareness in Court” [1990] NSW Bar Association News 10 (accessed 31 July 2017).

The 2016 Australian Census confirmed that Australia is a diverse nation and that Western Australia (WA) is one of the most diverse of all the states and territories. WA continued to have the largest proportion of its population born overseas; almost one third (32.2%). FootnoteAustralian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016 (Cat No 2071.0) (2017) Cultural Diversity (data cube), Table 1 (accessed 31 July 2017).

Until mid-2013 WA’s population was the fastest growing of all Australian states and territories, and net overseas migration was the single largest component of population growth in Western Australia from 1998-99. FootnoteABS, Australian Demographic Statistics, December Quarter 2016 (Cat No 3101.0) (2017) Table 2 (accessed 31 July 2017). This growth has contributed to our diversity, and is expressed through the large number and range of languages, religions, cultures and countries of origin with which Western Australians identify. FootnoteABS, Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016 (Cat No 2071.0) (2017) Cultural Diversity (data cube), Tables 5, 8, 12 (accessed 31 July 2017). Since 2013, however, annual net overseas migration to Western Australia has fallen to about one-third and it is now generally exceeded by the natural increase in population. FootnoteABS, Australian Demographic Statistics, December Quarter 2016 (Cat No 3101.0) (2017) Table 2 (accessed 31 July 2017).

The term “culturally and linguistically diverse” is generally used to refer to groups and individuals who differ according to religion, race, language and ethnicity - except for those whose ancestry is Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Celtic, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (information concerning Aboriginal people can be found in chapter 11 of this Bench Book). For convenience, “CaLD” is commonly used as an abbreviation for “culturally and linguistically diverse”.

People from more than 220 different countries live, work and study in WA, speaking as many as 290 languages (including around 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages) and identifying with more than 130 religious faiths. FootnoteABS, Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016 (Cat No 2071.0) (2017) Cultural Diversity (data cube), Tables 1, 8, 12 (accessed 25 July 2017).

The material used in this chapter was originally drawn from the New South Wales Judicial Commission’s Equality before the Law Bench Book, with modifications to incorporate local legislation, data, reference material and agency submissions. The Steering Committee overseeing the production of the 2nd edition of this Bench Book also gratefully acknowledges the submissions and contributions of the following organisations which have assisted in the revision of this chapter:


Last updated: 1-Sep-2017

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