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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 4 Hansard (12 April) . .

Page.. 1390..

Office for mental health—multicultural dimensions

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Madam Speaker has received letters from Miss C Burch, Ms Cheyne, Ms Cody, Mr Hanson, Mrs Kikkert, Ms Le Couteur, Ms Lee, Mr Milligan, Ms Orr, Mr Pettersson and Mr Steel proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with standing order 79, the Speaker has determined that the matter proposed by Mrs Kikkert be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The importance of making sure that multicultural dimensions are supported in the office for mental health.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (3.33): I am delighted to bring this matter of public importance in my name to the Assembly today. Australia is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world, exceeding New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom in the proportion of residents born overseas. The nation's capital reflects and, in some measures, even exceeds this national diversity. According to the latest census figures, fully 32 per cent of the ACT's residents were born overseas, with another 15 per cent having at least one parent who was born overseas. A non-English language is spoken in nearly 24 per cent of Canberra's households.

In short, the term "culturally and linguistically diverse", often abbreviated as CALD, certainly applies to our community. This is a term widely used in Australian government policy and service initiatives and specifically refers to people born overseas, people with limited English proficiency, children of people born overseas, refugees and asylum seekers. Research clearly indicates that these communities often face unique cultural and linguistic barriers that may impede their access to services, including health services, resulting in poorer outcomes.

Lower utilisation of health services by multicultural communities in Australia is especially pronounced when it comes to mental health services. Thankfully, data suggests that the prevalence of mental health issues in CALD communities is no greater than in the population at large. In fact the self-reported prevalence of mental illness is slightly lower for people born overseas than for people born in Australia.

Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds do face specific challenges. As a rule, both migrants and refugees choose to travel to a new land because they are hoping to forge new lives, often away from very difficult circumstances. Many refugees and other migrants have experienced and witnessed high levels of traumatic events and violence, including war, persecution, sexual assault, the death and disappearance of loved ones and survival in a range of difficult circumstances. Beyond this, research suggests that the often difficult process of settlement itself may contribute to the incidence of mental illness. This is often linked to the stressful process of acculturation, language and social difficulties, and struggles in finding employment.

For all of these reasons it is essential that multicultural dimensions be included in the design and provision of mental health services. At the very minimum this means that

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