People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

  • Family Court of Australia, Family Violence Best Practice Principles, 4th edition (2016).

    The Best Practice Principles are applicable in all cases involving family violence or child abuse (or the risk of either) in proceedings before courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cmth), and provide useful background information for decision makers, legal practitioners and individuals involved in these cases.


    In particular, the Principles note that the dynamics of family violence and abuse are informed by the diverse cultural context in which it occurs and by the experience of people from different ethnicities, backgrounds and language groups. It is important to recognise that the concept of ‘culture’ is not fixed and immutable. Attempting to ascribe certain characteristics to particular cultural groups may lead to erroneous generalisations based on racial or ethnic identification. Making assumptions or generalisations about racial, ethnic or religious groups ignores the intersection between, for example, culture and socio-economic status, age, disability, sexual orientation, place of residence, immigration status and homelessness. Nevertheless, insofar as broad statements can be made about violence and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, research has tended to suggest that cultural values and immigration status increases the complexities normally associated with family violence and abuse.

    Women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are generally less likely to report cases of family violence. The factors that may influence this can include:

    • being excluded from their community
    • the limited availability of appropriate translator/interpreter services and access to support services
    • limited support networks
    • reluctance to confide in others
    • lack of awareness about the law
    • continued abuse from immediate family
    • cultural and/or religious shame, and
    • religious beliefs about divorce.
  • Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Multicultural Plan 2013-15.

    In addition to the minimum obligations set out in the Multicultural Access and Equity Policy, the courts have developed actions in response to the recommendations made by the Family Law Council in their 2012 report, Improving The Family Law System for Clients from Culturally And Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds in focus areas including:

    • Community education/ legal literacy —recognises need for information about the law to be disseminated to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
    • Building cultural competence —includes capacity-building strategies within the service system, including cultural competency
    • Enhancing service integration —includes maintaining and building collaboration within and between agencies to identify and address issues relating to cultural diversity, through publicising good practice, sharing information, coordinating programs and collaborating on projects
    • Enhancing the use of interpreters —strategies to ensure the use adequate and competent interpreting services
  • Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity Website.
    The Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity is an advisory body formed to assist Australian courts, judicial officers and administrators to positively respond to the diverse needs of the judiciary, including the particular issues that arise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This website includes a number of useful resources and links.
  • See the Executive Summary (p6-9) which makes a number of recommendations. It also identifies and discusses key pre-court barriers:

    • Lack of knowledge of legal rights;
    • Lack of financial independence;
    • The importance of integrated support services;
    • Poor police responses;
    • The impact of pre-arrival experiences and traumatic backgrounds;
    • Community pressure on women seeking to protect themselves and their children;
    • Uncertainty about immigration status and fear of deportation; and
    • The cost of engagement with the legal system.

    Identifies communication barriers: Working with interpreters:

    • Lack of clarity about who is responsible for engaging an interpreter;
    • Failure to assess the need for an interpreter, or incorrectly assessing need;
    • The skill of interpreters being engaged;
    • Lack of awareness amongst judicial officers and lawyers about how to work with interpreters;
    • Engaging interpreters who are inappropriate in the circumstances; and
    • Unethical and poor professional conduct by interpreters.

    Identifies barriers to full participation in attending court:

    • The intimidating process of arriving at court;
    • Safety while waiting at court;
    • Lack of understanding of court processes;
    • Difficulty understanding forms, charges, orders or judgments;
    • Courtroom dynamics;
    • The impact of attitudes and actions of judicial officers;
    • The need for judicial officers to receive cultural competency training;
    • Lack of availability of men’s behaviour change programs; and
    • Abuse of court processes by perpetrators.
  • Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity, Cultural Diversity Within the Judicial Context: Existing Court Resources (2016).
    This paper consolidates the outcomes and findings of a scoping study conducted by Maria Dimopoulos, managing director of MariaD Consultants. The study was commissioned by the Migration Council Australia on behalf of the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity.