What is cultural diversity?

Cultural diversity refers to people who identify with particular groups based on their birthplace, ethnicity, language, values, beliefs or world views. This does not mean that everyone from a particular cultural group will hold exactly the same values or do things in the same way.

Australia is one of the world’s most culturally diverse societies. Census 2016 data shows that nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians have either been born overseas or have one or both parents who have been born overseas. It also showed that in 2016, there were over 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes.

At school, if not earlier in life, it is likely that children and their families will have contact with children and families from many different cultural backgrounds.

Creating a sense of belonging across cultures

We all learn to communicate and understand our world through sharing language, customs, behaviours, beliefs and values. Our cultural experiences and values shape the way we see ourselves and what we think is important. Cultural perspectives influence how we care for and understand children and how we educate them.

Creating a sense of belonging across cultures means building a positive sense of community for everyone, where people learn to understand and appreciate others’ values, experiences and beliefs, so that together we can build a caring and accepting society that supports mental health and wellbeing.

When children learn about diversity, it allows them to appreciate and respect the differences in others, as well as learn more about their own identity.

Helping children connect across cultures and develop relationships requires good communication and flexibility to support children’s wellbeing.

Families can contribute to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for all children, which helps children to understand, appreciate and respect differences between others.

Ways that families can promote cultural diversity:

  • be a role-model for children by displaying inclusive and respectful behavior
  • remember that not everyone from a particular cultural group will hold exactly the same values or do things in the same way
  • identify your own culture by sharing cultural practices or stories. This will help children identify similarities in others, as well as differences
  • expand your own understanding of different cultures and their customs
  • teach kids about positive cultural difference early on. Help kids to value diversity early in life, and look for opportunities to teach them to value cultural difference. Show them how to appreciate such differences, perhaps saying, “Isn’t the lady’s colourful scarf beautiful?”
  • make connections with people in your community from diverse cultural backgrounds
  • don’t be afraid to talk frankly with your kids about racism. No one has all the answers all the time, but being open about these issues is important.

Resources

Cultural diversity: suggestions for families and educators