The RCFV highlighted that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are disproportionately affected by family violence and face greater barriers to seeking assistance than those of an Anglo-Australian background.285 Despite Victoria being one of the most culturally diverse states in Australia, the collection of information about a person’s cultural background and language is inconsistent across agencies and service providers. This section of the framework highlights the family violence issues faced by CALD communities, the challenges in collecting data from CALD communities, and existing data standards used to collect this information. Data items are proposed for use in the collection of administrative data from CALD communities within the context of family violence.
Terminology and definitions
The phrase ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ is a broad term used to describe communities with diverse languages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, traditions, societal structures and religions.286 This term is often used synonymously with the phrase ‘ethnic communities’, however, CALD is the preferred term used by Australian service providers and agencies.
A widely used definition of CALD refers to those people born overseas, in countries other than those classified by the ABS as ‘main English speaking countries’.287 The main English speaking countries identified by the ABS are Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and United States of America.288
While this is a commonly used definition, people born in these main English speaking countries may identify with another culture or country, and may still face language and other barriers when interacting with government departments and service providers.
This framework will use the definition from the RCFV and refer to CALD communities as people of non-English speaking background, as well as people born outside of Australia and whose first language is not English.289
People from faith-based communities can experience specific types of family violence, similar to those experienced in CALD communities. While people of various faiths may not be captured by
The definition of CALD communities is intended to describe the characteristics of people who belong to these communities; not to determine whether a person ‘is CALD’. As outlined further in this section, a person’s cultural and linguistic diversity cannot be determined or summarised by one measure.
Family violence in CALD communities
People from CALD communities were identified by the RCFV as a priority group affected by family violence. The estimated prevalence of family violence in CALD communities, significant risk factors, and barriers to accessing services are summarised below.
The RCFV highlighted that data about the prevalence of family violence in CALD communities is limited, mainly because there is no reliable data that paints a clear picture of the scale of the problem.290 Although some survey data suggests that members of CALD communities are overrepresented as victims of family violence when compared with the general population, it is thought that barriers to access, communication and social participation are likely to significantly understate the problem.291 A summary report of case reviews completed by the Coroners Court of Victoria concerning family violence related homicides found that of 271 family violence homicides examined, 10% involved a person or persons from a CALD background.292 These numbers are suspected to be an under-representation as only cases where country of birth was recorded were included in the study.
Contributing circumstances and specific presentations of family violence risk
People from CALD communities may experience a range of abuses which reflect unique presentations of evidence-based family violence risk factors. Presentations of family violence that disproportionately affect people from CALD communities include:
- Social isolation: People from CALD backgrounds are at a higher risk of social isolation dueto language barriers, having fewer contacts within the community and living far away from theirfamily. Perpetrators of abuse may exploit this by preventing the person from learning Englishor having contact with people outside of the family unit, exacerbating social isolation. Victims also risk being ostracised by the community and their family if they speak up or leave an abusive relationship.293
- Forced marriage: Forced marriage refers to a marriage which takes place without free and full consent from one or both parties. Forced marriages are distinct from arranged marriages, which involve a marriage organised by families but where the individuals involved have the right to accept or reject the marriage. Forced marriages may involve the union between individuals who are children and not capable of providing free and full consent. As highlighted by the RCFV, “forced marriages can represent an intersection between family violence, sexual exploitation and child protection”.294
- Female genital mutilation: Female genital mutilation, female cutting or female circumcision refers to any procedure involving the total or partial removal of female genital organs for nonmedical purposes. The practice has been documented to take place in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and is propagated for a variety of cultural reasons. Female genital mutilation is a crime in Australia. It is also generally viewed as a form of family violence as it is a means of controlling women and girls. The practice is known to be harmful and has both immediate and long-term health impacts.295
- Financial abuse: While financial abuse is not unique to CALD communities, it is recognised as being a particular concern for these groups. Coupled with the social isolation that people in CALD communities often experience, victims may become entrenched in an environment where financial abuse is more likely to occur and impact a person’s ability to support themselves. Financial abuse can include one party controlling all household finances, refusing access to bank accounts or services (such as having a phone plan) or forcing a party to work without payment or access to earnings.
- Dowry-related violence: A dowry is a monetary or physical gift transferred from a bride’s family to her husband’s after marriage. Marriages involving dowries are most common in Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, African and Middle Eastern communities. Dowry-related violence may occur following claims that a dowry was not paid or from coercive demands for additional money or gifts. In some cases, men may use immigration-related threats to try leverage a higher dowry. Women who have tried to report abuse stemming from dowries have faced additional barriers from the criminal justice system, with some women having found that police do not understand what they are talking about when discussing dowries.296
- Spiritual abuse: While spiritual abuse is not unique to CALD communities, in some instances, perpetrators of family violence use faith to condone or excuse their behaviour. This is described as spiritual abuse, which is “the use of religion to justify gender inequality and to justify violence against women”.297
- Multi-perpetrator violence: The involvement of multiple perpetrators in family violence is reported to be more common within CALD communities. This occurs when multiple family members, extended family or social networks are involved in controlling the victim’s behaviour.298
- Immigration-related abuse: This abuse can involve deliberately providing misinformation about a person’s visa status, hiding passport or immigration documents, and threatening deportation. These are some of the control tactics used by perpetrators of family violence against refugees and immigrants from CALD backgrounds. In these instances, perpetrators capitalise on the victim’s uncertainty about their rights and entitlements in order to continue the violence.299
Family violence in CALD communities can also be exacerbated by characteristics or circumstances that can be more common in those communities, including:
- Pre-arrival trauma: It was noted by the RCFV that traumatic experiences prior to arrival in Australia can increase the incidence of family violence. It is acknowledged that some people from CALD backgrounds have come to Australia to escape war and persecution in their home countries. Frustration, anxiety and anger associated with this trauma may manifest into violence directed towards family members.300
- Immigration status: CALD victims who do not have permanent residency and depend on their partner for their visa status are particularly vulnerable to family violence. Often, they are not eligible for services such as Medicare, and they could be deported or lose custody of their children if they leave the relationship. Knowledge of the potential ramifications for a person’s visa status could be used by an abusive partner to threaten and control the victim, thus creating a power imbalance.301
- Different cultural understandings of what constitutes family violence: CALD victims may lack an understanding of what constitutes family violence; particularly if they are from countries or cultures where family violence is not viewed as a crime or where it can be considered the norm for men to ‘discipline’ their female partner due to gender inequality.302 In their submission to the RCFV, the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House) noted that some people living in Australia come from countries and cultures where violence within a family is acceptable.303 Foundation House highlighted that due to a lack of understanding of the Australian legal system, both men and women may not know that family violence is prohibited and stretches beyond physical violence to emotional, psychological and financial abuse.304 This can result in people from CALD communities not identifying themselves as victims of family violence or being unsure how to report and seek assistance
- Difficulties leaving a violent relationship: CALD people may be reliant on their partner for money, transport and language,305 which limits their ability to leave an abusive relationship. A lack of culturally appropriate crisis accommodation may also increase the difficulty people from CALD backgrounds face when attempting to escape family violence.306
Under-reporting and barriers to accessing services
The RCFV highlighted that people from CALD communities are generally less likely than members of other community groups to speak out or report family violence. This may happen for a number of
reasons, including but not limited to:307
- a perception that services will not provide a culturally sensitive response
- language barriers
- social isolation
- shame and stigma involving others in family matters
- fear of being ostracised from their community
- fear and mistrust of government agencies
- cultural norms that set out gender roles, sexuality, marriage, divorce and family dynamics
- lack of CALD specific support services
- a lack of available and independent interpreters.
The RCFV outlined in detail the reluctance that people from CALD communities have when disclosing family violence to government, law enforcement and even people outside of the family unit.
Why do we need to collect CALD information?
The consistent collection of cultural and linguistic diversity information from people coming into contact with the family violence system is vital for a number of reasons. Firstly, anecdotal evidence and research surrounding family violence and people from CALD communities in Australia indicates that this group should be considered as a priority in future responses to family violence, due in part to the unique barriers these communities face when trying to report abuse and access services. Additionally, CALD information is necessary for operational reasons. Collecting information about a person’s primary language and whether they need an interpreter, for instance, often satisfies an operational requirement when providing a service. Finally, there are gaps in our present understanding of how family violence impacts people from CALD communities. In particular, there is limited evidence collected in surveys and administrative data which can be used to make informed decisions about service use, intervention strategies and risk assessment targeting family violence in CALD communities. In order to better understand the range and impact of family violence in these communities, effort needs to be directed at improving the consistency and comparability of data collection practices within Victoria.
Operational need to collect
In Victoria, the government and its funded agencies have a duty of care to ensure that members of the public understand the information that is being provided to them. This duty of care may be breached if a service or agency unreasonably fails to provide or inform a client about their right to an interpreter.308 Therefore, it is an operational requirement in Victoria to determine whether an interpreter is required by a person accessing a government funded service. Record management systems should be able to accommodate the collection of this data item. If this information is collected consistently, it can better inform the demand for translation services and the types of languages required.
Gaps in information
As previously discussed, information pertaining to the nature and prevalence of family violence in CALD communities is limited due to a lack of understanding of family violence in CALD communities, fear of reporting and barriers to accessing services. The RCFV further noted that surveys in Australia are not specifically designed to capture information on experiences of family violence by people in CALD communities. It is speculated that the under-representation of people from CALD backgrounds in survey data may be related to people from these communities being less likely to engage with
surveys or discuss violence with a survey interviewer.309
Additionally, the collection of CALD information in Victoria is inconsistent and difficult to compare. Currently, most service providers and agencies collect some information about cultural and linguistic diversity, however, there is little parity between organisations regarding the data items that are collected. For instance, many services and agencies collect information about a person’s need for an interpreter, but it is often not comparable due to the use of different language classifications. Many agencies will collect other data items about CALD communities, but the particular data items often vary. The inconsistency and variety of information collected has limited use for further analysis and comparison.
Challenges in current data collection practices
There are number of challenges which can impact the ability to collect information on CALD communities. Challenges that are relevant to CALD communities include:
- Data collection is not core to business function, with the collection of the full range of CALD information therefore not seen as a priority
- Lack of training in collection of data that may be perceived as sensitive, which can lead to a reluctance from workers to collect information about a person’s cultural background for fear of impacting the client/worker relationship, or being discriminatory
- The requirement for multiple data items to fully record CALD identity can create challenges for IT systems that do not have the capacity to include detailed response options.
Of particular relevance is the impact of varied operational requirements and business requirements may result in data collection that is partial, or difficult to compare. For example, some organisations may need to collect information on a person’s visa status, for instance, in order to ascertain if an individual is eligible for a service, whereas other organisations may be obliged to collect information on a person’s requirement for an interpreter. As a result, the range of CALD data items and response options varies across agencies, which contributes to the accumulation of data which are not comparable between services.
Prior to implementing the proposed data collection standards, agencies should be aware of some of the challenges they may encounter in collecting data from CALD communities. Reference to these challenges is not intended to deter agencies from collecting CALD information, but rather to inform them in their preparation for data collection. Considerations for specific data items are discussed in the proposed data collection standard below.
Existing data standards
In Victoria, there is currently no consistent method of collecting CALD information and consequently, the data collected within the context of family violence are inconsistent across administrative data sources. The primary data standards that currently exist for the collection of CALD information were developed by the ABS. These standards include all data items that can be collected to identify a person’s cultural background and main languages spoken.
The ABS have many data standards which capture different cultural and linguistic characteristics. When these standards are used together, they allow for a broader understanding of a person’s origin and cultural diversity. They include:
- country of birth standard,310 which includes the data items:
- country of birth of person
- country of birth of father
- country of birth of mother
- language standards,311 which include 5 data items:
- main language other than English spoken at home
- proficiency in spoken English
- first language spoken
- languages spoken at home
- main language spoken at home
- Indigenous status standard312
- ancestry standard313
- religious affiliation standard314
- year of arrival standard315
It should be noted that Indigenous status data collection is addressed in the section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Combinations of these data standards are used across government to collect CALD information. In the context of administrative data, questions from these data standards are often combined with questions required for operational purposes, such as the requirement for an interpreter.
Data collection standard for collecting information from CALD communities
There is no single data item that can capture a person’s cultural background and it is therefore advised that a number of data items are used to identify the different facets of a person’s cultural identity. The purpose of this data collection standard is to provide a set of questions that can be asked of a client in a service provision context, which are collected as part of an administrative dataset. Through research and consultation, the following four data items have been deemed most relevant in collecting CALD information and practical for service providers to ask:
- country of birth
- cultural background and ethnicity
- main language spoken at home
- interpreter required
The four data items included in this standard have been chosen for their value in providing useful information about a person’s cultural and linguistic diversity. However, this does not negate the need for ongoing, qualitative consultation with CALD communities to ensure the data items remain current with community standards and adapt to shifts in modes of identification. It may therefore be necessary to revise the standard if other data items become more appropriate and relevant in the future.
For each of these data items, an example short list has been used to demonstrate the application of the question. Please note that it is not recommended that short lists are used in actual data collection practice, as they cannot capture all possible responses. Instead, it is recommended that service providers and agencies use the full suite of response options included in the relevant ABS Standard classification. Links to these classifications have been included below each data item.
Before collecting CALD information, the purpose of data collection needs to be made clear to the client, and if applicable, linked to either a direct service response or referral to an appropriate service. There are also privacy implications related to the collection of some CALD information due to its sensitive nature. Relevant privacy legislation such as the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic) and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) should be considered by data custodians when collecting and storing this information. Further information about privacy and security considerations is provided on page 18.
Country of birth
Country of birth is defined as the country in which a person was born. This is an objective measure of whether a person was born in Australia or overseas and is just one component of understanding a person’s cultural background.
Question phrasing and response categories
In which country were you born?
Note: The example option list presented below is based on the response categories used in the ABS country of birth standard.
Standard answer categories
The national ABS classification for country of birth is the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) 2016 (Cat. No. 1269.0).316 Where IT infrastructure permits, all countries in the classification should be available as responses, in order to remove the need for only a subset of countries to be shown and an ‘other’ response category. However, it is acknowledged that this may not be possible, and as such, a short list of countries can be created based on the agency’s requirements. Only one response category should be recorded for this data item.
Benefit of asking country of birth
Country of birth is a static and reliable data item that provides fundamental and objective information about a person’s origins. Country of birth forms part of the current data collection practices of many agencies and is also collected in the Census of Population and Housing, enabling comparison and analysis with existing Census data. When collected in conjunction with the cultural background and ethnicity data item, it can be used as an indicator of the ethnic and cultural composition of a population.
Considerations in asking about country of birth
It should be noted that there are some sensitivities in asking a person their country of birth and that people may be hesitant or fearful to disclose this information if they believe it may negatively affect them in some way. It is recommended that each person is given the option to not disclose their country of birth in the form of the ‘prefer not to say’ response.
Cultural background and ethnicity
For the purposes of this framework, the terms ‘cultural background’ and ‘ethnicity’ can be used interchangeably. In the ABS Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) 2016 (Cat. No. 1249.0),317 ethnicity is defined as the shared identity or similarity of a group of people on the basis of one or more factors.318 These factors can include, but are not limited to:319
- a long shared history, the memory of which is kept alive
- a cultural tradition, including family and social customs, sometimes religiously based
- a common geographic origin
- a common language (but not necessarily limited to that group)
- a common literature (written or oral)
- a common religion
- being a minority (often with a sense of being oppressed)
- being racially conspicuous
This data item is designed to allow a respondent to self-identify with the culture or ethnicity that they most associate with.
Question phrasing and response categories
What cultural background or ethnicity do you identify with?
Note. The example option list presented below contains the top 10 ancestries identified by people living in Victoria for the 2016 Census.
Standard answer categories
The national ABS classification for grouping ethnicity is the ASCCEG which is designed to be used for the classification of information relating to topics such as ancestry, ethnic identity and cultural diversity. The ASCCEG is a three-tier classification, allowing for the respondent to identify with a specific ethnicity that can then be aggregated into a broader cultural group.
Where IT infrastructure permits, all ethnicities in the ASCCEG should be available as responses, in order to remove the need for only a subset of ethnicities to be shown and an ‘other’ response category. However, it is acknowledged that this may not be possible, and as such, a short list of ethnicities can be created based on the agency’s requirements. Additionally, where possible, multiple responses should be accepted for this data item in order for a respondent to list all ethnicities and cultures that they identify with.
Benefit of asking cultural background and ethnicity
There is an increasing movement towards asking people about the cultural background or ethnicity they most closely identify with. This is not necessarily based on their birthplace but a combination of the culture and ethnic group that they feel aligned with. Given the long history of world migration, it has become increasingly common for a person to be born in one country but identify strongly with the culture of another country.
Considerations in asking cultural background and ethnicity
There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account when asking about a person’s cultural background or ethnicity. As a person’s ethnicity is self-identified, a person should be able to disclose any ethnicity regardless of their country of birth. The cultural background or ethnicity that a person identifies with can change over time, and as such, it should be possible to update a person’s response to this question and maintain a historical record of changes where IT infrastructure allows.
It should also be noted that there are some sensitivities in asking this question and that people may be hesitant or fearful to disclose their cultural background if they believe it may negatively affect them in some way. It is recommended that each person is given the option to not disclose their cultural background and ethnicity in the form of the ‘prefer not to say’ response.
Main language spoken at home
Main language spoken at home is the main language spoken by a person in the home on a regular basis to communicate with other residents and regular visitors to the home.320
Question phrasing and response categories
Which language do you mainly speak at home? (If more than one language, indicate the one that is spoken most often.)
Note. The example option list presented below is based on the response categories used in the ABS Languages standard.
Standard answer categories
The ABS national classification for grouping languages is the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL) 2016 (Cat. No. 1267.0).321 This classification is designed to be used for the classification of a number of language variables including first language spoken, languages spoken at home, main language spoken and main language other than English spoken at home. The ASCL recognises that some people use non-verbal forms of communication and therefore includes Auslan and other sign languages as response options. While the ASCL includes dialects, it may not be an exhaustive list, and agencies may therefore need to use the free text field to record the dialect spoken.
Where IT infrastructure permits, all languages in the classification should be available as responses, in order to remove the need for only a subset of languages to be shown and an ‘other’ response category. However, it is acknowledged that this may not be possible, and as such a short list of languages can be created based on the agency’s requirements. As this data item pertains to the main language spoken at home, only one response category should be recorded for this data item, which is in line with the ABS Standard.
Benefit of asking main language spoken at home
The ABS Language Standards 2016 currently contain five language data items. However, main language spoken at home has been included in this data collection standard as it was identified through research and consultation as the most useful general purpose language variable. It indicates the language a person is likely to be most comfortable using, and can also be used to gauge the English proficiency of the household.
Considerations in asking main language spoken at home
As with the other data items relating to cultural and linguistic diversity, there may be similar sensitivities in asking this question. A ‘prefer not to say’ option should be included to allow people not to disclose this information.
The interpreter required data item assesses a person’s need for an interpreter as perceived by the person or someone consenting for the person. This is an operational question that should be asked by service providers and agencies who need to verbally communicate with a person.
Question phrasing and response categories
Do you require an interpreter?
Note. The example option list presented below is based on the response categories used in the ABS Languages standard.
□ No (skip next question)
Which language do you require?
For office purposes only: which language was provided? __________________________
Standard answer categories
To ensure consistency of data collection, agencies should collect the language information related to interpreter requirements consistent with the classification used when collecting a person’s main language spoken at home.
Where IT infrastructure permits, all languages from the ASCL should be available as responses, in order to remove the need for only a subset of languages to be shown and an ‘other’ category. However, it is noted that this may not be possible, and as such the above list should be amended to reflect the languages that are most frequently reported to the agency or service provider. Where a subset of languages is used it is important to use the same categories for both the ‘interpreter required’ and ‘main language spoken at home’ data items.
Office purposes only: Provision of interpreter and language spoken
This additional question, designed for use by the service provider or agency, is intended to develop an understanding between the demand for interpreters with specific language skills and the availability of those interpreters. Research and consultation highlighted that it is commonplace for a person to request an interpreter to interpret a particular language, but due to a lack of interpreters they may be provided with an alternative interpreter, and must speak in a language that is not their preferred. In instances where an interpreter is not provided at all, ‘English’ should be recorded as the language provided. By collecting information on the language provided to the client, departments and agencies can better understand the gap between the demand for interpreters and the available supply.
Benefit of asking whether an interpreter is required
The consistent collection of this data item provides information about the languages spoken by the client base, and can be used to inform decisions about translation service that need to be provided in the future. In many service delivery settings it is a legal requirement that this information is recorded.
Considerations in providing interpreters
Organisations should be aware of the risk in small and emerging communities that the interpreter may know both parties involved in a family violence incident. In these cases, it may be beneficial to use another interpreter in a language nominated by the client.
The Victorian Government is updating its guidelines on the use of interpreters to deal with family violence (recommendation 157). This specifically relates to eliminating the use of perpetrators, children and other family members as interpreters, as well as the use of the same interpreter for both parties.322 Similarly, Victoria Police has amended the Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence to highlight the risk of using the same interpreter for both parties as well as using children as interpreters, and training is being administered on the use of interpreters through Foundation Training programs and through the Centre of Learning for Family Violence (recommendation 159).323
The Department of Health and Human Services has produced guidelines for organisations working with interpreting and translating services. These include information on choosing the mode of interpreting (onsite, telephone or video remote), accommodating requests for a preferred interpreter or interpreter of a particular gender, and working with Auslan interpreters. For details of these guidelines, please refer to ‘Training and resources’ at the end of this section.
How to determine response categories
Across each of the classifications recommended in this data collection standard, there are many response values that can be provided by a respondent. Ideally, systems would allow for the selection of all of the response options which are listed in the SACC, ASCCEG and ASCL. The complete list of response options for all of these measures can be found in ‘Training and resources’ at the end of this section.
It is noted that IT infrastructure restrictions may not allow for an extensive list of response options to be utilised. In these instances, a short-list can be developed with an ‘other’ or an ‘other (please specify)’ free-text option. However, free-text methods are not the preferred option for ensuring quality data, particularly if there is no resourcing to code or clean these data fields.
If a short list of response categories is developed, it is important to note that if these categories are changed over time to align with the most common response categories, time series analysis may be restricted.
Why is this combination of data items important?
As mentioned earlier, there is no single data item that can be used to capture all people from CALD communities. Without asking questions relating to a person’s cultural background or ethnicity and main language spoken at home, it is not possible to capture important CALD information about a person. In only asking a person’s country of birth there is a risk that differences within communities such as cultural background are masked.324 While working with clients from CALD communities, it is important to understand each of these aspects of a person’s diversity to ensure that the service response and referral pathways are culturally sensitive and relevant to a person’s needs.
The following examples highlight the complexity of CALD information captured when using all four data items.
- Example 1. A person who was born in Australia but identifies their cultural background as Vietnamese and primarily speaks Vietnamese at home but does not require an interpreter.
- Example 2. A refugee who was born in Kenya but identifies ethnically as South Sudanese and requires an interpreter because they primarily speak Dinka and have limited English.
- Example 3. A person who was born in Malaysia but identifies their ethnicity as Malaysian Chinese and requires an interpreter because they primarily speak Mandarin and have limited English.
- Example 4. A person who was born in India but identifies as British and doesn’t require an interpreter as they do not speak any language other than English at home.
Other data items considered
The following data items were considered in the development of this framework but were not included in the final set of data items for this data collection standard. The benefits of each are outlined below, along with rationale on why they were not included. Some services and agencies may already collect these data items. In these circumstances, it is recommended that organisations continue to collect all data items essential for operational purposes, in addition to the four data items included in the proposed standard above. In general, the collection of these data items by other services and agencies is encouraged where it is feasible, appropriate and complies with privacy legislation.
English proficiency is a subjective measure of a person’s competence in spoken English, which may be used as an indication of a person’s level of integration into society, and how much assistance they will require navigating services. This data item should follow another question about language which filters out people whose only language is English, as it is intended to assess the ability of people who speak languages other than English. It was determined that when the interpreter required data item is recorded, the use of English proficiency is a duplication, in that it is another way to determine a person’s ability to communicate effectively with the system and understand the process and their rights.
Visa status/migration status
Throughout consultation, visa and migration status were discussed as valuable pieces of information to understand whether a person is entitled to certain social services and assistance, such as an immigration lawyer. Visa status may also be used by a person as a means of exerting control over another person in a family violence situation, and may therefore be useful to capture in a family violence service context to determine a person’s vulnerability. It is strongly recommended that agencies collecting this data item carefully explain the reasons for doing so, and inform the person that the information will not be used against them. Additionally, staff would require training in how to accurately record the complexity of visa categories. Visa status was excluded from this data collection standard as it has the potential to deter people from disclosing or reporting family violence if they fear they will lose their right to stay in Australia. However, this information can be asked if it is required for agencies and service providers to perform operational functions.
Year of arrival in Australia
As with visa/migration status, the year of arrival variable was extensively discussed during consultation. It was identified that new and emerging communities face more challenges than established migrant communities when settling in Australia, due to the need for interpreters and a lack of extended family and social networks. Year of arrival in Australia may indicate the person’s familiarity with Australian society and laws, level of exposure to and awareness of information and service systems, and degree of social connectedness. When collecting this data item, it is important that country of birth is asked first, as agencies should only ask for year of arrival if a person was born outside of Australia. Agencies should also be mindful that this variable measures the year of first arrival in Australia and not the year of most recent arrival. Significant periods spent outside of Australia need to be accounted for when making determinations about the person’s period of residence in Australia. Ultimately, the year of arrival variable was not included in this data collection standard as it was not deemed to be as high priority as some of the other data items, which provide more detailed information about a person’s background and potential needs.
During consultations, it was noted that asking a person to identify the religious beliefs they adhere to or religious group to which they belong can assist agencies in providing more culturally appropriate services. For example, people of certain faiths may prefer to be assigned a case worker of a particular gender. In this instance, the collection of religious affiliation allows for better allocation of culturally appropriate case workers. It is also important to recognise that people born in the same country may have had vastly different life experiences as a result of their faith, which also means that they are likely to encounter different barriers when attempting to seek help for family violence. Collection of religious affiliation therefore provides meaningful information about a person’s background that can be used to tailor service responses. However, agencies need to consider whether asking for religious affiliation is appropriate within the context of the service they are providing. There are particular sensitivities in asking this question and people may be hesitant to disclose this information due to persecution in their country of origin or fear of negative consequences.
Asking about a person’s ancestry provides information about their origins and heritage. When used in combination with other variables, it can measure the extent to which people retain the ethnicity and culture of their ancestors. It was discussed as an alternative to cultural background and ethnicity, but given it is based on the origins of a person’s mother, father and earlier generations, it does not necessarily reflect a person’s own affiliation or alignment with a particular country, culture or faith. As such, cultural background and ethnicity was chosen to support the movement towards allowing people to self-identify their own culture.
Country of birth of father/mother
Collecting the country in which a person’s parents were born can be used to better understand a person’s cultural background and determine retention of culture, ethnicity and language. Throughout consultation, data items which captured details about the person were deemed more relevant and preferred to data items which captured details about a person’s father/mother.
Main language other than English spoken at home
Asking for the main language other than English spoken at home is particularly beneficial for established migrant communities that may have developed proficiency in English, but still use another language at home. It is used in the Census, which allows for the comparison of administrative data with Census data for analysis. Main language spoken at home was chosen in preference to this data item for its ability to better gauge English proficiency.
Training and resources
Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG)
Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL)
Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria
How to work with interpreters and translators: A guide to effectively using language services
Guidelines designed by the Department of Health and Human Services to assist organisations in providing language services to clients and responding to the needs of Victoria’s diverse community.
inTouch – Multicultural Centre against Family Violence
Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)
Translating and Interpreting Service
National interpreting service operated by the Department of Home Affairs, which is available to government agencies and businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They provide immediate and pre-booked phone interpreting, as well as onsite interpreting services.
Victorian Multicultural Commission
Provides independent advice to government to inform the development of policies and services to culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities. A comprehensive directory of useful resources can be accessed from their website.
VITS LanguageLoop – Victorian Interpreting and Translating Service
Provides professional interpreting and translating services to government agencies and businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their services include document translation, telephone translation and onsite interpretation.
285 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.99.
286 Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria 2012, ECCV Glossary of Terms, viewed 21 June 2018,
288 ABS 2013, 3417.0 Understanding Migrant Outcomes – Enhancing the Value of Census Data, Australia 2011, viewed 21 June 2018,
289 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.99.
290 Ibid p.101.
292 Walsh, C, McIntyre, S-J, Brodie, L, Bugeja, L & Hauge, S 2012, Victorian Systemic Review of Family Violence Deaths – First Report,
Coroners Court of Victoria, Melbourne, p.22.
293 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.105.
294 Ibid p.111.
296 Ibid p.122.
297 Ibid p.136.
298 Vaughan, C, Davis, E, Murdolo, A, Chen, J, Murray, L, Quiazon, R, Block, K & Warr, D 2016, Promoting community-led responses to violence against immigrant and refugee women in metropolitan and regional Australia [Research Report], Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Sydney.
300 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.109.
302 Ibid p.108.
303 The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House) 2015, Submission to the Royal Commission into Family
Violence, no. 925, viewed 22 June 2018,
305 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.105.
306 Ibid p.108.
307 Ibid p.106.
308 Victorian Multicultural Commission, Using interpreting services, viewed 22 June 2018,
309 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.101.
310 ABS 2016, 1200.0.55.004 Country of Birth Standard, 20 16, viewed 22 June 2018,
311 ABS 2016, 1200.0.55.005 Language Standards, 2016, viewed 22 June 2018,
312 ABS 2014, 1200.0.55.008 Indigenous Status Standard, 2014, version 1.5, viewed 22 June 2018,
313 ABS 2014, 1200.0.55.009 Ancestry Standard, 2014, Version 2.1, viewed 22 June 2018,
314 ABS 2016, 1200.0.55.003 Religious Affiliation Standard, 2016, viewed 22 June 2018,
315 ABS 2014, 1200.0.55.007 Year of Arrival Standard, 2014, viewed 22 June 2018,
316 The full classification of countries can be found at
317 The full classification of cultural and ethnic groups can be found at
318 ABS 2016, 1249.0 Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2016, viewed 22 June 2018,
320 ABS 2016, 1200.0.55.005 Language Standards, 2016, viewed 22 June 2018,
321 The full classification of languages can be found at
322 RCFV 2016, Volume 5 Report and recommendations, p.123.
323 State Government of Victoria, Victoria Police amend the Code of Practice around the use of interpreters, viewed 22 June 2018,
Reviewed 01 April 2021