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Putting cross-cultural policy into practice

The objective of this study was to consider 'What policies, processes and practices would increase the relevance of mainstream agencies to Indigenous and culturally diverse communities?'. The study sought to increase the understanding of what constitutes effective cross-cultural practice in mainstream organisations, with a view to influencing increased access by Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse people to these services.

The study was designed to promote a more critical reflection of current cross-cultural practice by mainstream agencies and workers, in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches and to develop strategies and provide new knowledge and awareness that will influence improved training and skill of workers.

Cross-cultural training and the provision of 'working with interpreters' workshops have been standard strategies undertaken by local agencies in the Shepparton area in Victoria, to improve their staffs' capacity to work with clients from cultures different from their own. Evidence and experience suggests that having processes such as those described above is necessary but not sufficient.

Main messages

Key findings


Five mainstream health/welfare/community organisations and the University of Melbourne were involved in this project. Four organisations were not-for-profit community based organisations and the fifth was a large Commonwealth government organisation. The four not-for-profit organisations varied in size including a large organisations which provided a number of services and to a small specialist service.

Project methods included a desk review of cross-cultural policies, individual in-depth interviews with agency CEOs and staff and focus group discussions. A thematic analysis of participating organisations cross cultural policies or related policy was also undertaken. Outcomes of the study were taken to the local Indigenous and CALD communities for feedback regarding their relevance, this feedback helped shape final research recommendations.

The project started in 2004 and was completed in December 2007.

Project leader

Fran Smullen



Administering institution:

The University of Melbourne