Culturally and linguistically diverse
Representation of culturally and linguistically diverse people is an important step to reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.
The term ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ (CALD), refers to people from a range of countries and ethnic and cultural groups. It includes people of non–English speaking background as well as people born outside Australia but whose first language is English, and encompasses a wide range of experiences and needs. In 2016, over a quarter of Australia’s population was born overseas, and nearly half had a parent who was born overseas. One in five people spoke a language other than English at home, and more than 300 languages were spoken in Australia.
CALD workers include people who are not Australian citizens or do not have permanent resident status. They come to Australia for a range of reasons, for example to seek protection as asylum seekers or refugees, as migrants to reunite with family, or as seasonal workers, international students or backpackers. Some CALD workers may hold a temporary visa with full or partial work rights attached, while others may be unauthorised to work but do so. Workers on temporary visas are estimated to constitute between 6% and 11% of the Australian workforce.
In Australia, data on sexual harassment and CALD workers is very limited. The 2018 National Survey found that overall there was no significant difference in the prevalence of workplace harassment based on main language spoken at home (32% English, 34% language other than English). However, this may be affected by issues including the accessibility of the survey instrument for people of CALD backgrounds, reluctance for people to report due to fear of repercussions, the lack of a representative sample of the CALD population and the use of main language spoken at home to measure cultural and linguistic diversity.
In contrast to the 2018 National Survey findings, the 2018 University of Sydney Women and the Future of Work report found that women born in Asia, and more broadly, women of CALD background, reported experiencing sexual harassment at twice the rate of the surveyed population.
Sexual harassment can have a unique manifestation for ‘CALD’ women – for example, where sexual comments made are related to the person’s race, such as implying that people of a certain culture have certain sexual characteristics, which is a consequence of cultural fetishisation and racism.
Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has indicated that women from CALD backgrounds may be more vulnerable to exploitation—including sexual harassment and assault—and can experience a number of barriers to reporting. These are often complex and intersectional and include, among others:
- the amount of time spent in Australia;
- language proficiency;
- insecure work or visa status;
- not understanding their rights or where to go for help;
- in many cases, actively distrusting government or official complaint channels,
- and concerns about career progression or place in community.
Many forms of discrimination and harassment can intersect and place CALD workers in vulnerable situations.
I work with women who have just arrived in Australia … and they’re working in regional Australia … in meat factories, with 99 percent males in the workforce, and are going to work with minimal, very basic English skills … they’re wearing head scarves, they’re battling the sexism, the sexual harassment, the racism, and every other form of ‘ism’ that they can encounter in that.
The Respect@Work National Inquiry report heard that particularly for migrants, refugees or other workers on temporary visas, insecure employment was a barrier to reporting. The Australian Women Against Violence Alliance noted that for women on temporary visas:
[M]igration status places women in an unequal position where more often women will prioritise financial need over personal safety [and] thus not report their experiences. The situation is similar for women engaged in domestic work.
Jesuit Refugee Service also raised economic insecurity as a key vulnerability factor for women asylum-seekers:
Asylum-seeking and refugee workers who have managed to secure employment are far less likely to report or speak out against workplace sexual harassment for fear of losing their only form of income.
The 2018 National Survey results indicated that people of CALD backgrounds may understand sexual harassment differently from other populations. Among CALD respondents, prevalence rates were heavily influenced by whether a ‘legal’ or ‘behavioural’ definition of sexual harassment was used. When provided with a specific list of sexual harassment behaviours, the number of CALD respondents who said they had experienced sexual harassment increased by 120% (compared with a 65% increase among those from mainly English-speaking households).
Research has also shown that sexual harassment may be perceived by CALD women in different ways. Cultural and social attitudes can affect how CALD workers experience and respond to sexual harassment. Cultural norms may reinforce gender inequalities, gendered roles and identities; affect attitudes to authorities or government agencies that inhibit ‘speaking out’ and guide how people prioritise rights, wellbeing and access to support. These cultural factors can also influence understanding and recognition of sexual harassment.
For a more in depth review of sexual harassment and CALD workers see the Respect@Work National Inquiry Report (page 207).
Addressing CALD equity and inclusion
FECCA (Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia) is the peak, national body representing people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community. FECCA has a range of services and resources to assist organisations engage with and include people from CALD backgrounds. Better Beginnings. Better Futures is a series of factsheets that aims to provide a community perspective on some of the most pressing issues affecting new and emerging communities in Australia.
The fact sheets are a good starting point for many organisations and include:
- Fact sheet 1: Introduction to New and Emerging Communities
- Fact sheet 2: Support for Post-Compulsory School Education for Students from New and Emerging Communities
- Fact sheet 3: An overview of key barriers to gaining and retaining meaningful employment for youth from new and emerging communities, including support programs available, gaps in services and programs and tips on how to address them.
- Fact sheet 4: Access to Funding for New and Emerging Community Organisations
The Diversity Council of Australia also has a range of resources to help organisations create a culturally diverse and inclusive workplace. These include:
- Counting Culture 2021 - This research from DCA and the University of Sydney Business School has developed a standardised approach for defining, measuring, and reporting on workforce cultural diversity in a respectful, accurate and inclusive way.
- Creating inclusive multi-faith workplaces - This resource provides guidance to Australian workplaces about how to deal with a range of common faith-related queries, and also to provide workplaces with principles to help balance issues where conflicting rights might intersect.
- Cracking the Glass Cultural Ceiling - DCA's latest report explores why so few culturally diverse females reach top leadership positions in Australia and what organisations can do to better recognise the skill and ambition of culturally diverse female talent.
- Capitalising on Culture and gender in ASX leadership - In this landmark research, Diversity Council Australia and Deakin University, with the financial support of CPA Australia, tracked the extent of cultural diversity among women in leadership in ASX companies from 2004 to 2015.
- Intersectionality Matters: Guide to engaging immigrant and refugee communities to prevent violence against women - The Intersectionality Matters Guide aims to help people and organisations develop violence prevention approaches, strategies and activities in a way that meaningfully engages immigrant and refugee communities.