Intercultural responsiveness is being mindful of the community you work with, and the culture(s) that they come from.

When health and community professionals  are interculturally responsive they are able to use attributes such as values, beliefs, understandings, skills and knowledge to appreciate the perspectives of others and work towards inclusion in culturally sensitive ways.

Whether working individually, or within an organisational environment, intercultural responsiveness means being flexible, respectful, accepting and understanding of differences.

It’s also about being aware of differences within cultural groups, and the fact that not everybody from any one country or cultural background will behave in the same way, nor will they all have the same beliefs or expectations.

Why is intercultural responsiveness important?

Supporting and maintaining a child’s cultural identity is the key to their sense of belonging, sense of identity and connectedness – all key factors in positive mental health.

It’s important for health and community professionals who work with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to ensure they create safe, inclusive and responsive places for children from all cultural backgrounds.

It’s also much easier for families and health and community professionals to form collaborative working relationships when they understand children’s cultural backgrounds.

Watch our video on building intercultural responsiveness

Three ways to build intercultural responsiveness 

Building intercultural responsiveness can take time and seem like a big task, but there are a number of steps that you can take to begin the journey.

Whether you are working individually, or within an organisational environment, here are some steps you can take to become more culturally responsive:

1. Understanding a child’s community

One of the first steps is to understand a child’s community, what their needs are, who they are, and building relationships both at an individual level, as well as an organisational level. One of the best ways to understand a child’s cultural identity is talking directly to families about their lives and culture.

Some things that you may need to be aware of and responsive to include:

  • different levels of English language and communications skills
  • experiences of trauma arising from migration or resettlement
  • disrupted education for some children due to migration
  • experiences of racism and discrimination.

2. Being aware of your own attitudes, beliefs and values

As well as understanding a child’s community, it’s also important to be aware of your own attitudes, beliefs and values. How do you see and interact with people from other cultures? Do you hold any assumptions or biases and what has led to them? All of us have a unique take on the world that is influenced by factors such gender, religion, country of origin, childhood experiences and even the media. We all have likes and dislikes, favourite foods, family traditions and opinions. Thinking about these things shows us the value of diversity.

3. Creating an inclusive culture

When you are working within an organisational environment, creating an inclusive culture is critical for embedding interculturally responsive practices. Creating a secure and collaborative organisational culture where everyone is valued for what they can contribute and achieve is important.  One way you can do this is to make sure that your organisation develops a set of inclusive values that everyone commits to and that can be used as a framework to then develop culturally inclusive policies and practices.

Within your organisation, some questions you can consider include:

  • Have staff received training to support their cultural competence?
  • Are resources available to support staff working with children and families with diverse cultural backgrounds?
  • What are the organisation’s policies on the use of interpreters?
  • How is staff expertise used to support the cultural diversity in the organisation?

For more information

Cultural diversity: further resources