Australia is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world. However, some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds face greater challenges when dealing with the health and welfare system. Language barriers, lower health literacy, and difficulties navigating an unfamiliar system put them at greater risk of poorer quality health care, service delivery and poorer health outcomes compared with other Australians.
Several Australian Government strategies identify people from CALD backgrounds as a priority population. Understanding patterns of disease and access to services within this community is important to being able to address the needs of CALD people in Australia.
AIHW reports and other products include information about CALD Australians where data permits. This page will feature products which focus specifically on CALD Australians.
Australia is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world. Cultural and linguistic diversity can encompass a range of aspects including a person’s country of birth, their ancestry, where their parents were born, what language/s they speak, and their religious affiliation. There is no one definition of cultural and linguistic diversity, and often a range of information is required to identify the unique characteristics of a person that may affect their health care needs.
As at 10 August 2021, 3 in 10 (28%) people living in Australia were born overseas, with Australia’s population including people born in nearly every country of the world. According to the 2021 Census of Population and Housing (the most recent for which detailed data are available):
- the 5 most common overseas countries of birth are England, India, China, New Zealand and the Philippines
- around 1 in 4 (23%) Australians spoke a language other than English at home
- more than 300 languages were spoken in Australian homes
- 3% of Australia’s population indicated that they did not speak English well, or at all.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds often face greater challenges when dealing with the health and welfare system. Language barriers, lower health literacy, and difficulties navigating an unfamiliar system put them at greater risk of poorer quality health care and poorer health outcomes compared with other Australians. Some groups within the CALD population experience higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and have a higher rate of hospitalisation for some chronic conditions.
People from CALD backgrounds are a population of interest across the health sector, including several key Australian Government strategies. Understanding patterns of disease and service use within this community is important to address the health needs of CALD Australians and to inform improved and equitable service delivery.
Information to identify CALD people in data is limited, is not collected consistently, and has not been routinely reported on. The growing availability of linked data has provided a solution to some of these challenges. Combining different sources of information can tell a rich story of a person’s demographic profile and interactions with various services. Because the data are linked at the level of the individual, information from one data set (for example, CALD information from the Census of Population of Housing) can be used to supplement information in data sets that do not collect this information.
However, it is important to note that the health of CALD populations is a product of many factors – including environmental, economic, genetic and socio-cultural factors in their home country and Australia, as well as their migration experience – many of which are unable to be captured consistently in data.
This report provides detailed data and a comprehensive picture of the health status of CALD populations in Australia
People born overseas generally had a lower prevalence of long-term health conditions than people born in Australia
Low English proficiency & more than 10 years in Australia was associated with a higher prevalence of chronic conditions
Differences in health outcomes between CALD groups are more apparent when data are presented at the most detailed level
Linked data can supplement information in other data sets to better identify CALD populations
Cultural and linguistic diversity is a complex concept; identifying all CALD populations requires a range of information