New South Wales is home to people from many cultures that are diverse in religion, race, language, and ethnicity. The attitudes, beliefs and practices within different cultures can often make it difficult for people to adjust to living in a new country. Furthermore, the age people are on arrival, the cultural distance between their place of origin and the new country and employment opportunities are some of the main factors that influence the successful settlement of people who migrate to Australia. Many studies have shown that there is a strong link between the level of cultural adjustment and an immigrant’s state of mental health.
Research shows that people who migrate to a new country are more likely to experience isolation, frustration, pain, and anxiety. The culture shock in adjusting to a society with different social structures, values, expectations, political systems, beliefs and practices can be challenging in itself. Some people may have experienced torture and trauma in their country of origin. On top of this, the stresses of organising housing, health care, schooling and other services for new migrants and their families can take its toll on mental wellbeing. Limited English language skills can also be a barrier to finding services.
Unemployment or lack of suitable job opportunities can affect an individual’s place in the community. As an example, an immigrant being employed in a well-respected position in their origin country may find that after migrating to Austraila their qualifications are not recognised here. More often than not, having their qualifications recognised requires a large amount of money, something which many migrants do not have. Additionally, the lack of support networks of family and friends, or living in rural, remote Australia may increase the isolation felt by immigrants. These stresses can eventually lead to poor mental health. Immigrants are under-represented in data which shows mental health service usage. This could be due to a number of reasons such as stigma and shame associated with mental illness, limited access to mental healthcare, the quality of care received, limited knowledge of services, communication difficulties, confidentiality concerns, lack of trust in service providers, service limitations and discrimination.
The following report presents a range of data for the most common Culturally and Linguisitcially Diverse (CALD) communities living in NSW. Although this data highlights the diversity of our multicultural community it also points to some of the issues many people face when adjusting to a different culture and where English is their second language.