Supporting culturally and linguistically diverse children and families who experience racism 

Content type
Event date

14 June 2023, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Mandy Truong, Julie Ngwabi, Wei Gao, Amanda Kemperman


About this webinar

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of racism in its various forms. Racism hurts children and their families in real and fundamental ways, affecting not only their mental and physical health, but also their relationships and ability to grow. Practitioners who work with children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds must understand how racism operates. Understanding that experiences of racism can be systemic, and experienced by families in different ways, can help practitioners navigate conversations about racism and support CALD children’s mental health and wellbeing.

This webinar:

  • increases awareness of the effects of racism on child and family mental and emotional health and relationships
  • identifies the support that parents from a CALD background need to support their child’s mental health and wellbeing
  • provides guidance on how practitioners can discuss and address racism.

This webinar is recommended for practitioners who may engage and work with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children, families and communities.  

This webinar is co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds in a series focusing on children’s mental health. They are working together as part of the Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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Audio transcript (edited)

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks so much for joining us today for our webinar on supporting culturally and linguistically diverse children and families who experience racism. I'm Amanda Kemperman and I work with Emerging Minds in the Practice Development team. We develop resources for practitioners to support children’s mental health and wellbeing. Today’s webinar is a partnership between Emerging Minds and the Australian Institute of Family Studies. This is a part of a larger suite of resources supporting practitioners in working with culturally diverse children and families. Keep an eye out for our online course landing in a few days. This is about things to consider when working with culturally diverse families. 

We recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the traditional owners of the lands we work, play and walk on throughout this country. We acknowledge and respect their traditional connections to their land and waters, culture, spirituality, family and community for the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. We also acknowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families are culturally and linguistically diverse. 

This short conversation today won't have the scope to cover First Nations people’s experiences in the detail they deserve. We also acknowledge First Nations people’s experiences of racial discrimination whilst accessing institutions and interventions that are not culturally responsive and safe, and that this continues to have a substantial and cumulative negative effect on children’s mental health and wellbeing. 

Before we go any further I would like to say hi and introduce our presenters for today. Wei Gao, mother and Emerging Minds family partner. Hi, Wei. 


AMANDA KEMPERMAN: And, Julie Ngwabi, our Senior Child Mental Health Advisor with Emerging Minds.  


AMANDA KEMPERMAN: And Mandy Truong, research fellow in the Child and Family Evidence team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. 

MANDY TRUONG: Hi, everyone. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Before we get started, we’d like to share some of our considerations for today’s conversation. When we used the term CALD, we’re accepting that it’s the most commonly used term in Australia. It’s used by the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia. We do recognise the limits of its usefulness, though. When we use this term today, we’re referring to the vast array of languages, ethnicities, nationalities, traditions, societal structures and religions within families and across many different communities. 

We also would like to clarify our understanding of racism for today’s discussion as well. Racism refers to any form of discrimination, prejudice or bias based on race or ethnicity. And while structural and institutional biases are crucial to address, during this webinar we'll mainly be focusing on interpersonal forms of racism and the practitioner’s role in responding to those. You can find today’s handouts in the go-to webinar control panel via the handout section. And you can also ask questions throughout today as well via the chat box. We'll be answering some of those questions today. For those that we don't get to, we'll be providing a recording of our responses that will be available with the webinar recording via the Emerging Minds or the Australian Institute of Family Studies webinar page. 

If you can help us to keep getting better by completing our short survey at the end, that would be fantastic. I would also like to remind you to look after yourself today, during and after the conversation. We have a couple of self-care resources that you can have a look at. And, if today’s conversation causes any thoughts or feelings of concern, please seek assistance and support. 

So, to start the conversation off today, I’d like to ask Wei to share with us a little bit about herself and her experiences with racism. Wei, could you share with us what’s it’s been like as a parent and how it’s affected you and your children?

WEI GAO: Hi, everyone. It’s my absolute honour to be here with every one of you. So, I was born in mainland of China and grew up there. I've been in Australia for over 10 years and I have two children. They're still young. Initially I don't actually feel a lot of racism. But there was one significant thing that happened a couple of years ago. It was one day, I opened my letterbox. It was a shiny day. But I found a letter with handwriting and folded in a very specific way. I thought, “What is that?” When I opened it and read it, it was in English and a little bit particular kind of hard style of writing. But I was so upset and disappointed, because all the content is about the hatred of the Chinese culture, the hatred of Chinese people, the hatred and China. 

So, I felt I was personally being attacked. And, again, it was just a letter even without envelope. I have no idea who dropped that letter in my letterbox. And I felt what did I do wrong, is there anything wrong with me? So, that was my response firstly. I probably passed that kind of anxious or self-doubt on to my children as well. Because they can obviously see we don't hang decorations which represent the Chinese culture around the house or outside the house anymore. Especially during the Spring Festival. We love to hang the red lanterns and the couplets around the doorframe. And, as everyone knows, Spring Festival is one of the most important celebrations in Chinese culture. 

So, the next year there was nothing with hanging or decorating. My children did ask me why we didn't do anything. I felt how should I respond to those questions, because on one hand I'm proud of where I was from, my heritage. On the other hand, I was really not sure if that’s safe to do this. Because I don't want my children being targeted as I felt we were targeted, because the letter was specifically dropped into my letterbox without postage. But, this year, after a couple of years’ reflection, next year, when Spring Festival comes, I will still hang out and do my decorations. I have to show the children – our children probably doesn't know the letter – I have to show the children, “Yes, we’re proud of our culture and it’s a part of Australian culture.” Because the Australian culture is multicultural. 

So, that was my initial response and my further response, hopefully that can provide kind of a tone of today. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that experience you’ve had and how you navigated that with your family. Julie, over to you. From your knowledge and experience, what are the different ways racism can be experienced by children?

JULIE NGWABI: Thanks, Wei, for sharing your story again and thanks, Amanda, for the question. So, I'll start by putting a bit of context to my responses. Because I think we need a holistic view and understanding of child and family mental health in order to appreciate the impact of something as adverse or that can be as traumatic as racism. And when it comes to children we know that children do not exist in isolation, but they exist in the context of their whole ecology which involves their families, their relationships and the broader environment as well. And we all know that racism is harmful and it does affect children’s wellbeing, it affects their development and it can have enduring, long-term effects. That's why we need to call it out and address it. 

And, racism, as Wei recounted, it just doesn't affect one person or the child in the family. It affects everyone. It can actually affect family cohesion and family functioning as well. And sometimes, if one person is experiencing racism other family members can be triggered as well as they recall their past experiences. And all this is in the background of what research tells us about CALD families, that they are less likely to access and effectively engage with services, even those that they so desperately need. So, we know that racism can either keep families and children away from accessing services, or when they do access them, they're disengaged if they encounter that or any discrimination. Something which is of great concern for us as practitioners. 

So, children will experience racism in a number of ways and in different places. But, really, children will experience racism in places where they learn, places like schools and daycare centres. And they will also encounter racism in places where they live and grow, those everyday interactions in the community. And, of course, when accessing services with their families. And children will also experience racism in the places where they play, for example, in sports clubs and play groups and play centres. So, racism can be experienced interpersonally during human interaction and also as alluded to in your introduction, Amanda, CALD families can also be negatively impacted by institutional or systemic practices when they access services.

So, children basically will respond differently or experience racism differently. Some children will show those externalising behaviours, the obvious behaviours that we can all notice and see. They might be angry, become aggressive, become defiant. And, unfortunately for this kind of response, children will, in addition to the racism, find themselves in trouble at school, they will find themselves in trouble at home and they find themselves in trouble sometimes with the law or the criminal justice system. So, we find the situation where a child who has experienced racism and is responding a particular way, instead of being supported, they actually become the problem again. Then, instead of being supported, they become the problem, and racism is in the background. 

Sometimes children will internalise the racism, they can become ashamed of their identity of who they are, or they might have low self-esteem. And sometimes, in a way of trying to protect themselves they might try to distance themselves from their culture or try to change their accent. And that may actually cause conflict within the family. So, really, we need this holistic view and understanding of racism and its impact on the person and the whole family as well. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Julie, for such a comprehensive insight into how children experience racism. Mandy, over to you. How common are these kinds of experiences in Australia? And how do they impact on children’s mental health and development?

MANDY TRUONG: Firstly I’d like to reiterate what Julie said. Unfortunately experiences of racism are all too common in our community and they're experienced by children and adults from CALD backgrounds, regardless of their age, gender, socioeconomic circumstances, education level or their geographic location. Recent research tells us that there are significant proportions of children from CALD backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who experience racism. For example, there are population representative studies led by Professor Naomi Priest, examining experiences and attitudes to racism among Australian children in government schools, across New South Wales and Victoria. 

And this study was conducted in 2017 and over 4,600 children aged 10 to 15 were surveyed in this study as well as their teachers. So, this study found that more than half of students from CALD backgrounds reported at least one experience of racial discrimination by their peers. And half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children had experienced racial discrimination as well. In the survey there were different types of interpersonal racism asked of the participants such as being called insulting names, being left out of activities, being pushed, hit or spat on. And that was attributed to their racial or ethnic background. Interestingly, the study also examined racism perpetrated by teachers. For example, being unfairly disciplined or given a lower grade or mark than deserved because of their racial or ethnic background. 

And, also in the societal context. So, participants were asked whether they felt like they were being told they didn't belong in Australia or didn't speak English well because of their background. In terms of the findings of this, well, the proportion of students who reported at least one experience of racial discrimination by teachers, was highest among African student participants at about 30 percent. And the proportion of students who reported at least one experience of racial discrimination in the societal context out in the community was highest among East Asian participants at over 50 percent. 

So, in another population representative study, which some of you may be familiar with, the longitudinal study of Australian children, there are 10 to 15 percent of children reported experiencing direct racial discrimination. And they were more likely to report this if they were boys and were living with a primary carer who did not complete Year 12. So, unfortunately, they are very common experiences by children all across Australia. 

Now, in terms of the impacts, a lot of them were already mentioned by Julie and also so eloquently by Wei. From the research point of view we do know that cumulative experience of racial discrimination over time do have many detrimental impacts on physical and mental health among adolescence, for example, it impacts on social and emotional development, impacts on behaviour and mental health related outcomes, such as sleep difficulties, substance misuse in some cases and also suicide related behaviours. There’s also a link with increased risk of overweight and obesity. 

Yeah, children may become anxious when they've had these experiences. And it’s not just the experiences itself, but it does tend to have flow-on effects. One of them being hypervigilant about anticipating that the racist experiences are going to happen again in future. And that may cause them to alter their behaviour, such as not participating in sporting activities or going to certain public places where they've experienced racism. We know that adverse experiences in childhood do have impacts over the life course right into adulthood. There’s some research that shows experiences of racism in childhood is associated with risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. So, things like obesity, diabetes, hypertension. 

There’s this growing body of research as well looking at how experiences of racism get under the skin at the epigenetic level to impacting things like inflammatory pathways and stress responses that have really potentially serious implications for people later on in their life in terms of their risk of chronic disease. I’d like to note that people from marginalised groups who frequently encounter sources of stress may become overwhelmed when they try to cope with these experiences. And then that will impact their health and may result in poorer health outcomes as well. This has been described as something called the weathering effect. And it’s the idea that our health may begin to deteriorate in early adulthood as a consequence of all the experiences that we’ve had since birth, really. 

Again, it’s these flow-on effects that I think people need to be aware of when being able to identify racism and how helping support people who experience racism across society. Whether it’s interpersonal or institutional as well. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thank you so much, Mandy. And Julie and Wei as well, for such a comprehensive, in-depth insight how racism affects children and families. We know as practitioners that it can be really difficult talking about racism. Today’s webinar is obviously a part of having the conversation about racism. We know we don't talk about it enough. I'd be really interested to hear from you all around how you each navigate conversations about racism with children, parents, and in the practice setting as well. Wei, can I start with you? How do you navigate talking about racism within your family and with your children?

WEI GAO: From my experiences, I feel, we have to all feel safe before I actually start this very sensitive conversation. Especially for adult, probably is my personal preferences. And, also, I feel it’s OK for us as parents to say “I don't have all the answers” but I will be honest and just say so. And then find it out later and talk to my children. And my children are quite talkative, so it’s not too hard to start it. One day, because it was – they're school age, so one of my children asked me, “Mum, what percentage of Australians am I?” I think, “What? I've never thought about that. What do you mean? We're 100 percent of Australians.” So, he didn't really say the word ‘race’ or white, black or yellow or whatever colour, but I feel like he’s trying to say, “Look, Mum, you said you were an Australian. But you were born overseas, you grew up overseas. You're here only for example for one decade.” 

And, by the way, my children were born and grew up here. But other people, they were born here, that grew up here, their parents were born here, grew up here. So, I think, trying to understand him, are there any differences if we’re born overseas, how long we stay here, what language we talk, what skin colour we have. So, my response was, “It really doesn't matter wherever you were born, wherever you grew up. Wherever language you use, what skin colour you have, what eye colour you have. How big, how small, how different or how similar, we’re all 100 percent Australians.” I just tried to provide a confident answer. Yes, I was born overseas, fact. I grew up overseas, fact. I came here and chose to immigrate here, fact. Now, I'm 100 percent Australian. So do you, so do other people. We’re all 100 percent. 

So, it feels like it’s kind of a reinforce about even though we all look different, but that’s who we are as Australians. And, also, it feels like another layer is we share a lot of similar values as a group of friends. They all have different backgrounds. So, I have friends from Asian, friends from Africa, I have friends from the Aboriginal community, I have friends from Middle East, I have friends from European countries, I have friends – look all different. So, why children are exposed by all different looking of my friends or even different languages of speaking. They will think, “Oh, OK, this is normal. And Mum and Mum’s friends share similar values.” We don't look down on each other by any means, we respect each other, we look after each other. So, for them there’s no difference.

Even though we might look different or sound different. But, we are actually a whole community. And another layer is kind of unconscious bias. It feels like no matter what background we are, as a parent it’s important to role modelling and encourage our children to be able to speak up whenever it’s safe. When it’s safe and we can speak up, “Actually we’re looking after and supporting each other.” There was a little incident at home. My younger child likes tennis. So, I enrolled him into a tennis club, playing. There were tennis players from all backgrounds. But there were white kids and my children are apparently not 100 percent white. But I noticed the differences and they were very unfair. Probably the coaches didn't even realise. He would give the white kids three runs ever time while my children only have two runs. 

Then he jumped off the queue and this and that. Probably it was too busy for him and he didn't notice. So, my child was in tears. “I was in the bad team. I usually is a good player, but I was in a bad team. I don't get enough practice as the others.” So, I feel I don't have to be aggressive, I don't have to make a scene. I just politely, respectfully talking to the coach. “Look, this is what happened. He’s upset. Because I noticed what has been happening.” And everything else is fine. “OK, I didn't notice that. I'll make sure I'll treat them all fairly.” 

So, it feels that to speak up confidently in a safe way or respectful way can show our children – Look, sometimes it’s the way to support each other and we can support others if necessary. And I feel another layer is we are Australians, but I have Chinese heritage. So, I celebrate all Australian celebrations, all Chinese celebrations. But, also, I'm very curious of other celebrations from other cultures. Like from my Australian friends but with other heritages. So, in this case actually my children are naturally interested in all the cultures. Yes, there are dominant culture, but meanwhile we celebrate other cultures too. I mean, if all children have the same kind of mindset, in my closing the gap slowly, I feel, from children’s perspective. 

Just one last thing. I feel children are very smart. As a parent I would like to encourage them and support them and role modelling for them. Even though those conversations are very difficult, I can conquer my own barriers, but I need to try to find the best way, align with their age and their comprehensive ability and real life experiences to try my best to explain and try to help them find a way out. Julie, what do you think from your perspective? 

JULIE NGWABI: Thanks, Wei. I agree with everything that you just said. Definitely, the importance of us adults role modelling, even role modelling speaking up and the way we engage and connect with other people. I also agree that talking about racism and addressing it is quite challenging. It’s not an easy thing to do. And I think one of the things that makes racism difficult for us to talk about, just because elicits strong emotions like fear, like anger, shame and sometimes those who reported denial as well. And for those experiencing – in addition to it being challenging, being hurtful, is also a challenging and it can be quite ugly and messy, if not traumatic. And for some practitioners, sometimes there’s that lack of understanding and not knowing what to do, how they can effectively respond or support the children and families as well. 

But, I also agree that there are some things that we can all do to effectively talk about and address racism when it does occur. And I think being proactive and taking that preventative approach is really important. I think there are some basic and simple approaches that we can all apply. And in referring to what you just spoke about, I think we need to normalise talking about race, talking about culture and diversity, both in families and in practice. If we can become comfortable talking about these things, race, culture, diversity, then it means it will be much easier to talk about the much more difficult subject of racism and ultimately addressing it as well. 

And we need to be comfortable also talking with other people who are different than us. As you were mentioning, Wei, about the friends that you have in different cultures. And you are modelling that to your children as well. Also, when we talk about cultural diversity and inclusion, we need to embrace that and also be genuine and authentic about it so that it becomes just a second nature to all of us. And I think also for practitioners, I think it’s important as part of routine practice to have those networks with multicultural organisations to allow that natural exchange of information, learning and resource sharing. Because we really need genuine relationships between just one day events, whether it’s cultural events, we need to be cultivating those relationships to be genuine and authentic as part of routine practice. 

And, as you said, Wei, for families, really it’s never too late to have age-appropriate conversations about race and racism. I think we received some questions from people who were asking for foster parents for children who are in, how can we support them. And I will say it’s really important for families and all caregivers to support the children under their care to be able to embrace their identity, their race and their culture, and actually be proud of it. Because by affirming children’s culture and supporting their connection to same, research has actually proven that this is a huge protective factor for them. And, of course, all families, and also including the school, we should be encouraging these open conversations, especially when children point out differences like, “Why does this person have different hair? Why does this person speak with an accent? Why does this person’s skin colour look different?” 

We shouldn’t be shutting down these conversations, but we should be taking the opportunity to make these teachable moments, to talk about these issues freely. I think also, another thing that will help us to talk and address racism, we need a clear understanding of racism, we need clarity on the different types of racism, both the overt type and the covert type. Because if our understanding is that racism is only the observable ones, it means we'll miss the much more insidious, implicit, covert forms of racism, and people will continue to be harmed by it and we are not able to effectively support them. And we need to know that CALD children and CALD families will experience all forms of racism in different settings in that it’s never OK, whichever form it takes. 

I also think when talking about racism and addressing it as practitioners we all need to approach a trauma-informed approach. This is recognising that some people actually who are engaging with or who are accessing our services or delivering the services may have been traumatised and might be triggered. So, we really need to – Wei, you spoke about we need to create those safe spaces to talk about racism, to address it, including when doing training about racism, we need to create those physical and psychological safe spaces. And collaborating with people who experience racism, we need to hear from them, we need to hear their voice. And, also, giving them choice. 

Amanda, you were talking about the definition of CALD. Not everyone who looks like CALD who will identify themselves as CALD. So, we have to give people that choice as well. Because if we don't that means there will be tension in that connection. And people need to be able to trust. We need trust. Especially CALD children and families, when engaging with services, they need to know that they will not be harmed by the process. And the same with training as well. People need to trust that they will not be re-traumatised even by the training and the process.

Also, one of the principles of trauma-informed approach to talking about racism and addressing it is the principle of empowerment. People need to be validated. Their experience needs to be validated, need to be affirmed and it has to be in a way that will add to their self-determination and urgency as well. And, lastly, I think within practice settings, we need to have that collective and shared understanding of what racism is, of how it’s going to be prevented and how it’s going to be addressed. And we need to be having conversations on the role of informal and formal supports that can be activated when racism has occurred. Because some people might need formal supports such as mental health support or counselling. So those conversations need to be happening in practice settings. 

You might not be the one delivering the support, but at least you can support the families or lead them in the right place. And also activating those informal or natural supports, how the family can come together, how the rest of the family members can also be supported as well. Because they're also likely to be impacted. Even if it’s a child facing racism in the classroom, the family is also impacted by it. So, having that holistic view of supporting, of bringing in the family, is also helpful. And encouraging those cultural connections. As we say, if that can actually be a protective factor as well and to help with resiliency and recovery. As well, all agreeing that talking about racism is difficult and addressing it is really difficult. 

We know that practitioners cannot do this in isolation. They need the whole system and organisational support. They need spaces for reflective practice and supervision. And, with that in mind, I'm just wondering, Mandy, is there anything that organisations and systems can do to further support practitioners and families in having these conversations?

MANDY TRUONG: Thanks, Julie. I think what you covered and Wei covered has been very thorough. And you've both provided some very useful advice for people to consider in their practice. So, I think one important thing is to understand that sometimes organisations and systems that have been around for quite a while are kind of built up in a certain way, which might provide natural barriers for people from diverse backgrounds to access. And I think reflecting as an organisation on your policies and practices to see how welcoming they are and comfortable for people from different backgrounds to access is probably a really important for a start. So, that issue around critical reflection, from an individual point of view, but from an organisational point of view, is really critical. And it’s not something that you may achieve overnight. 

It’s one of those things that becomes embedded over years or decades in terms of policies and practices. It just becomes the status quo, doesn't it? So, I think you kind of have to be committed to having an anti-racist lens to what you want to do and then go from there. Because that is an ongoing process that takes time and energy and commitment from frontline practitioners as well as the managers and the executive and leadership of the organisation to make sure that any change that arises is sustainable and embedded for the long-term. 

And I think one issue I'd like to bring up that perhaps hasn't been mentioned as yet is that you can think about racism as oppression against certain groups of people or disadvantaging people for their racial ethic background. But it’s also about unearned and sometimes unacknowledged advantages for particular groups as well. So, part of that critical reflection could be about understanding your own privilege as a practitioner or the organisation, whether their policies and procedures advantage certain groups other than – some groups more than others as well. Perhaps an example is providing representation in a workforce for people from diverse backgrounds or having ready access to translated materials in different languages or access to interpreter services. So, those are kind of tangible things you can review within your organisation to see whether it is welcoming to people from different backgrounds. 

So, I think understanding that these advantages are just as important to consider. Whether you're a practitioner from whichever background, understanding your advantage and how you may react to conversations around racism, I think, are important. Because it can be tricky. Sometimes people focus on whether something is racist or not, rather than understanding the actual impact on the individual and focusing the support on the individual and how they're feeling, rather than the intention behind what had occurred. So, I think there’s a lot of space that we can do as individual practitioners. But, also more broadly within an organisation, which involves people, regardless of their work role, to really bring that anti-racism lens towards what is being delivered in terms of services and how colleagues and staff within organisations interact with each other as well. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks so much, Mandy. And Julie and Wei as well, really big question I gave you there and you all did incredibly well in putting it in such a cohesive, understandable way. Thank you so much. So, most of the questions and a lot of questions is as practitioners, what can be done, what can we do. And I know you've already talked about some of those ideas, but I would like to offer an opportunity now for Wei. What practitioner responses have you and your children found helpful in responding to the effects of racism?

WEI GAO: Thanks, Amanda. From a parent’s perspective I feel one of the biggest things would be the power imbalance. It feels like we are always run into the brick wall. Not always, very often. And sometimes we feels that we are very vulnerable and we don't have any power. And another one is we would really benefit from a practitioner who actually done the trauma responsive training, who generally can understand and be very empathetic towards our experiences. And, also, we feel no one can know everything about every culture, but be respectful, curious, and have some knowledge. If you have questions, just ask. I feel as though those are simple roles for any practitioner or even as a parent. You only have to ask my children for questions. 

I remember there was a practitioner I took my children to, and she just started to say, “Oh, what is your birth animal?” As Chinese, we all know our birth animals. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. And she started to introduce her birth animal was a rat, and she wasn't happy with a rat. And this was an opportunity to actually bring us together, and we said, “Oh, rat is not that bad in the story of the ranking of Chinese zodiac.” Because the rat is very determined and won the race, that’s why he got the first position of the Chinese zodiac. So I feel like that kind of knowledge showing, “Yes, I know a little bit. I'm interested in your culture, and we’re sharing it as well.” Because you have your birth animal, I can have mine as well. So that set a really successful starting point and it created a safe space for my children and could start to talk. 

Another one is sometimes people don't know. Please just ask. There was one opportunity – I have a friend. She immigrated to Adelaide. She has a four-year old who started childcare. And one day the childcare teacher says, “Can I just mention something? Does your child like vegetables and fruit?” She said, “Yeah, he likes a lot of vegetables. He eats it a lot.” “But in childcare he doesn't really eat any vegetables. We’re just wondering if that’s the case.” Then, after investigation with the child, the child told his mum, “Mum, the carrots and the celery and the capsicums and the cucumbers, they're all raw. How come they eat that?” So, we figured out, oh, he just wasn't used to the way we have the vegetables here. It’s not like he doesn't eat it. It’s just that he is used to a different way of eating it. He does it eat when it’s cooked. 

So, I feel just to ask simple questions it might just ease the tension or – we’re all happy because all we’re worried about is, is the child having enough vegetables and fibre. So, I feel sometimes it’s not that difficult. It’s probably just like initial gentle conversation initially with some questions. And another thing I want to say, which is kind of interesting, is in Chinese culture – This is kind of the knowledge part. In Chinese culture, especially men, will never wear a green hat or green beanie or green anything on their head. Because in Chinese culture we know, or we’re joking, we say his wife or girlfriend has an affair on him. That was from a Chinese story. So, that's kind of the knowledge part. If we know, we probably won’t make mistakes on that, just to put a green hat on a man’s head, something like that. 

Some other things I found interesting was around a baby’s birth. Various cultures have different ways of looking after newborn babies and the mum, postnatal care. I was very pleased because I had my children here and all the midwives, nurses and doctors I met, they are all aware about the Chinese culture. About how they look after mum and baby and postnatal care. One thing I picked up was – It’s interesting. In Chinese culture we like giant, huge, fat babies. So, we think that as parents we provide well. But from some practitioners will think is the baby too fat, maybe he has diabetes. So, initially I will take offence. Because I'm just so proud I have such a huge baby. I'm so proud I provided well. Which actually doesn't align with the health standards. 

But after a conversation I said this is the way we look at it and if he’s not having any problems – And he didn't, which is good. So, as they become a toddler, as soon as they start to walk, he became a normal sized toddler. So he’s not fat anymore. So, I feel that sometimes open conversation can be helpful as well. And I notice another one is about the colostrum. So, scientifically we believe that colostrum is so important for babies, especially from mum’s immune system. But in Vietnamese culture they have different perspectives. And I picked it up because I met a midwife and she told me this. I feel like that’s wonderful. They have knowledge and recognise they're being really respectful. 

I feel like we have a lot of wonderful practitioners that have been doing amazing job. And sometimes just asking questions is not easy, but please be brave and as long as you're being respectful, curious, I think you're all good. Julie, from a practitioner’s perspective, what’s your response and addresses?

JULIE NGWABI: Thanks, Wei. I totally agree with everything that you said. The aspect that you raised that we should just be open and have conversations. We won't get it right all the time. If we’re not sure, we just ask. But it’s important to be open about everything and keep the conversation going. But I also think that we need cultural competence as practitioners. We need to have those effective engagement skills in order to engage with CALD families and also to be able to support them when racism does happen. Because how we respect really matters. It’s part of the process. And when we are culturally competent, it means that we are better able to understand and to communicate and to engage with people across all cultures. 

And for that to happen it requires us to have self-reflection which, Mandy, you alluded to before. And an awareness of our own world views, how we view the world, understand it and other people as well. And especially if you are from a dominant culture, it calls you to appreciate that your experiences can be different from those who are maybe CALD or other minorities who are more likely to experience racism. And cultural competence really encourages us to challenge our previously held views and biases. For example, if you had a particular view about a particular culture or people, cultural competence and self-reflection will call upon you to question “Where did I get that information? Did I get it from this person with the same culture? Or I got it somewhere else or from mainstream?” 

So, really, that will call you to be able to commit to learning new information and unlearning previously held beliefs that might have been harmful. And that also required cultural humility to say, “I was wrong about that. That’s not actually the case, but now I know better.” It also requires us to be – We need to be culturally safe. We spoke about safety as part of our trauma-informed approach, creating those psychological, emotionally safe spaces, physical safety. But we need cultural safety as well. And you also spoke about curiosity. If we are open-minded and curious, it means we leave no room for any assumptions or any stereotypes about anyone. 

Also, secondly, I think the relationship is also key to the recovery process. How we position ourselves when talking about racism or addressing it, it really does matter. And for us to effectively engage with CALD communities, manage racism, we need to collaborate and partner with them. We are working together in a partnership. You are doing with, you're not doing for them. So, it needs to be a collaboration and a partnership. And I mentioned some power imbalances before, Wei. And, also I think practitioners can support families and children to speak up and even to report or to use interpreters. Because we want their voice to be heard. So, that’s another way that practitioners can actually be advocates and support children and families. 

Then, again, this will not apply to every CALD person or every CALD family member, but there are some CALD people, families, who may actually benefit from practitioners advocating for them and supporting them. We also talk about coming from a strength-based approach. But the reality is some families may not feel like they have it in them to challenge racism or to advocate for their children. So, practitioners can help the families or the parents to actually say, “Yes, as a parent, you've got the right to challenge this. It’s not OK. It’s OK for you to advocate for your child. It’s OK for you to seek support for yourself and for your child as well.” Because we spoke about how some CALD communities have got issues accessing services, the right services and doing so in a timely manner as well. So, this is another area where practitioners can actually help. 

And active listening. Families need to be heard. Families need to be validated. Also, being realistic and avoiding over-promising like saying “Nothing like this will ever happen again.” Because we don't know. It’s racism. Just being realistic and practical as well. And I also think practitioners can support families by encouraging those cultural connections and expressions that affirm people’s identity and we’ve mentioned that this can actually be a resilience factor and a protective factor for children. So, there’s a lot of simple but effective interventions that practitioners can do to support children and families. And with that in mind, Mandy, are there any other practice responses that you think might be helpful?

MANDY TRUONG: Thank you. That covered it brilliantly, to be honest. I agree. I just want to reiterate that it’s a space that everyone has a part to play. Whether you're a white person or white Australia, whether you're a person of colour, I think a collective response from a practitioner at an organisational level and community level is really important. As comfortable as we are, there’s a lot of learning in this space and I'm always still learning in this space. I liked your point about being humble and mistakes or missteps are likely, but don't let that stop you from doing better and learning and contributing. Because I think it’s really important, it’s something we can all play a part in. Not only because it’s just so commonplace, as we can all understand, but racism is one of those things that adapts as society changes. 

There are new spaces where racism can occur. Sometimes it’s very obvious, other times it’s a bit more hidden. For example, the online spaces, all the different websites and apps that are there. There is lots of evidence that racist behaviour can occur. And emerging technology such as artificial intelligence as well. Things like that that are a bit more hidden. We’re unsure about artificial intelligence in terms of algorithms, apps, across all different sectors of our community in society, how we do our daily activities. It’s very much technology-based. But there are areas where there’s evidence that racism is perpetrated in those spaces that are both obvious and much more hidden as well. So, we kind of have to be vigilant as well as a community, to all these new things occurring as racism adapts itself and changes. 

So, if we can all do that together then it will make it much more easy for people who bear the biggest brunt of racism, to feel like they have a voice, that they can speak out and that there are people there to be allies and advocates and support them through these difficult times. Understanding that, yeah, often these are impacts that people carry with them throughout their lives and, as mentioned, have impacts beyond themselves, but their families and friends and community as well. So, keeping that in mind and doing your best to contribute in whatever way you can is really powerful and something we can all work towards together. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Mandy. I take your point about it being an ongoing learning journey as it evolves and changes. Thank you so much to everybody who’s joined us and for all of your questions flying in. We’ve got some time to answer some of the questions. I would like to start with you, Wei. What are some of the ways to help a child respond to racist comments made towards them?

WEI GAO: As a parent, I feel that firstly I need to care about if they're safe, especially emotionally and physically. If I make sure they're safe, I would first like to pass my competence of whatever heritage we have and also we need to create a space, a little community where we share similar values. For example, my friends are so diverse, no matter if it’s white or with different heritages. We all share same values. The same values are assured by many people around my children. So, they would think, “Yes, this is the value we believe. Those I don't believe. Those values which are not OK and not acceptable.” And I want them to have the confidence to say, “No, what you said is not acceptable and I have to leave it and walk away from that.”

And I would like to know after the event happened. And I would also like to really make it fact-based. It’s not against anyone, it’s just the fact-based. Look at what happened and how to deal with what actually happened. Then make it better. And use simple terms. Because my children are still young. They're only primary school age. So, use simple terms, that way they can understand, based on their ages. For example, when they were in pre-school or even younger, we would use very simple things. “It’s unfair, it’s unjust.” Very unfair would be the common word they would use. That’s not unfair. Yes. How would you feel if you were treated that way? Or how would you feel if you had already been treated this way? And how do you deal with it. 

The primary school student will have to relate to their practical examples of their everyday life. For example, if someone is always on the swing, every single recess, every single lunch, not sharing and say, “Because you're different you're not going to play this.” So use very practical examples for them. With teenagers or pre-teens we have to encourage them to speak up. Because they can understand these complicated situations or understand more about race or racism. And very often whatever happened I just ask them questions, ask a lot of open-ended questions, let them talk, lead them to share how they feel, what they think, what they think should happen. 

So, once the conversation started we can actually lead them to the right direction that we wanted. And, also, we keep the conversation ongoing. It’s not just a one-off. And when they bring it up or continue the conversation with them, just reinforce, reassure, “Yes, what you're doing is good” and whatever behaviour is not OK. And all of this will help all children build up their empathy and compassion of all of us as individuals. In the end I really try to emphasise with my children with a lot of clarifications of our values. This is what we’re based on. We believe these are our values. If people do anything against it it’s their choice, but it’s not OK. We believe it and we follow it. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks so much, Wei. Really insightful. We have run out of time. That has flown. It’s been such an informative conversation. Thank you so much, Wei, Julie and Mandy. For those of you who have joined us today, thank you for your ongoing commitment towards working with the families that you do and towards your culturally responsive practice. And we acknowledge that it’s an ongoing learning journey for all of us. You can find today’s recording in a couple of weeks on our websites. And we’re also going to record a response to all of the questions that you have posed for you to view in couple of weeks as well. 

I would like to give a quick shout-out to the legends behind the scene that you don't get to see. Anagha and Erin, thank you for making this seamless. And thank you, everybody who has tuned in today, and look forward to joining you for our next webinar. And keep an eye out for our course landing in couple of days around understanding children’s mental health in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Bye for now.

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Welcome to our extended recording of some of your questions that you've posed today. The first question that I would like us to talk about is the difference between bullying and racism. Why does it need to be treated differently? And how do we know the difference between racism and other forms of discrimination? Mandy, I might start with you, on your thoughts. 

MANDY TRUONG: Sure thing. Thanks, Amanda. So, bullying is related to an individual’s particular traits and behaviours, and tends to occur at the interpersonal level between individuals. Racism also occurs at the individual level, but it’s different because it also occurs at the institutional, societal and structural level. With that more broadly, it’s related to group membership and social identity, which is aligned to people’s racial and ethnic backgrounds. So, these social kind of identities are kind of part of a social hierarchy, which we have in our society, which ranks people in a hierarchical order with people from particular groups at the top and others further down that ladder. 

So racism is more than making some bad jokes or insulting people, treating them poorly. Racism takes it further, because it makes the people feel less than or inferior to people from other groups. So there’s some evidence that suggests that general bullying and racial discrimination are experienced at different levels, depending on the racial or ethnic background of the children or the person. So if we lump all the experiences together as bullying then we may miss the unique effects of discrimination for children from minority backgrounds and then how it impacts their health and mental wellbeing. In the short term, but also in the long term. 

So, in either case I think it’s important to understand the context of the experience or the incident for that person and listen to the person, how they're experiencing or interpreting it and what specialised support they need. Then, understanding whether it was racism or bullying, while making asking whether it was indicative of a wider cultural issue of the school or the community setting where it occurred. Are other kids from similar kids being targeted or having similar experiences? Then, think about what can the response be of the school or the community organisation, then work together with that client or the family to understand the issue and then perhaps come up with some solutions together. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Mandy. And, Julie, from a practitioner’s perspective, can you share with us your thoughts?

JULIE NGWABI: I think with racism, to Mandy’s point, it really is about that sense of exclusion or discrimination based solely – whether it’s your race or ethnicity or culture. So, I think those are the distinguishing features that are really quite obvious. But this is happening because of my race, my ethnicity, my culture and also there is that dehumanising element where someone is made to feel lesser than or inferior. So, I think those are the distinguishing features, really, between racism and bullying. There has to be that racial element and it’s usually in a denigrating or derogatory manner.  

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Julie. And, Wei, would you like to have a response on racism and bullying, the difference, the difference between racism and other forms of discrimination?

WEI GAO: Yes, I feel both Mandy and Julie have been talking about it from the professional level. As a parent and carer for the children it feels like both racism and bullying are hurting people, are being excluded. They're all very negative experiences and they shouldn’t happen for any children. I feel that one of the easiest ways to distinguish them is, are we targeted by race, are we targeted by skin colour, are we talking about language talking, are we talking about specific things that because of race. For example, if I've been called, “You Chinese are dog eaters” that apparently, that’s racism. And, for example, if my colleagues are continuously putting me down, calling me names, that’s totally unacceptable. It’s not about bullying. 

And I have to clarify that not all Chinese people eat dogs at all. Some people, they eat dogs, because of their cultural background. And some other cultures, not from China, they eat dog meat too. So, I feel like, if they choose that, personally I choose to respect their culture and I'm not seen differently. And, again, on the off topic, I will come back – So, I will talk to my children any time, if you feel unsafe, insecure to being yourself, what you look like, what you talk about, your cultural heritage. If you don't feel comfortable, don't feel safe, firstly, make sure you're safe, walk away and then seek help. And if people make the wrong choices to do whatever and say whatever, that’s completely unacceptable. 

There’s another example. We heard a lot of phrases like, “You're bananas.” So, a lot of children are maybe called bananas, because they're white inside, yellow outside, as a skin colour. For me, that’s not really racism. Because we’re Australians, do you call other people other types of fruits, it’s not? So, in this case we'll just say, “Look, that phrase is not acceptable. We’re all Australian. We’re all the same. If we're bananas, they're bananas. We’re all bananas.” We’re big bananas, fat bananas, short bananas, whatever. But you can't just call me bananas and you're not a banana. So, that’s response is that, I, as a parent, both of them are not acceptable. And I have a responsibility to talk through and help my children get away or get through it. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Wei. We’ve also got some questions around is it illegal and breaking the law and can it be reportable to the police. Julie, I might start with you, for your thoughts?

JULIE NGWABI: Thanks, Amanda. The immediate answer will be yes. Especially if the law has been broken, maybe someone has been hurt or harmed or there’s some threats of physical abuse or aggression, the immediate will be, yes, of course, the law has been broken, so go and report to the police. Not just the police or just following any protocol or reporting to that organisation, but I think we also need to have some contextual understanding around doing this. And we’ve been talking a lot about safety as well. Some people may have some reservations or hesitancy, some people may have different experiences with authority figures, not just the police, but any figure they view or deem to be in authority. 

So, I think that’s where the way we interact and engage becomes really crucial and important, that relationship to collaborate with them just to be curious and to involve them in the conversation, how they want to do that. If they want to do that, and whether they might need additional support to do that. Because we don't want to encourage people to do something that might be re-traumatising or triggering them when they do not have the additional supports. So, although we say, yes, we want to encourage people by all means to report, but you also have to have that context and also collaborating with that people. And being aware also about some of the history that people have had in trying to report or in their interactions with authority figures. And some people may not have an issue at all, they will just report and that’s the end. 

So, I think we need to bring everything into context and collaborate with that person. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Yeah. Thanks, Julie. And, Wei, your thoughts on reporting to the police and it being against the law?

WEI GAO: Honestly, I had some negative experiences. Not only me, but a lot of my friends, when there’s a language barrier or lack of understanding of the regulations or the law or the roles of police or any other authorities, there’s a lot of barriers for them to conquer. They don't know who to seek for help, they don't know where to seek for help. And even though they know the right person, right place, they can't communicate. So, I feel there are a lot of barriers. Also, even though we found the right person, right place, we manage to communicate, but I found, according to my own experience, being dismissed a lot easier. So, I feel that needs to change to support this silent communities. We need support from higher levels.

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Wei. Mandy?

MANDY TRUONG: I think that’s a really excellent point that it’s all well and good to have laws or reporting authorities, but if the complaints mechanisms are barriers, that’s a form of structural racism, really. You're kind of setting people up to fail and then further dehumanising them and potentially harming them further. So I think the powers that be who are able to improve reporting mechanisms to make it safer and more straightforward for people to report, I think that would be really beneficial. Then those kind of incidences can be brought to people’s attention and then some action could arise from it. 

So I think that’s really important to point out, that we can't assume that just because there’s a law or a Human Rights Commission, that it’s straightforward and easy for people to go ahead and lodge a complaint. I think those processes need to be looked at, to ensure that they are safe for people and straightforward. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thank you. And that leads really nicely into another question that we received around creating cultural safety in services. The question sort of referred to around making information about health culturally safe. But I wonder if I might go a little bit broader than that. Obviously that’s a part of it, but I might start with you, Mandy, just in terms of creating that culturally safe space for families to access services they need, some of your thoughts. 

MANDY TRUONG: That's a really good question. It’s a practical one. I think there are lots of elements. It comes back to what was discussed in the webinar about having a review or audit of your services in terms of policies and practice, but also the environment, the physical environment, would it feel welcoming to someone or people from different backgrounds. Sometimes you have photos of diverse families, all the colours, all the different types of families that are available. Does your organisation engage with the local communities? How are the feedback mechanisms within the organisation? And, then, do you take that feedback and actually change or adapt things within the organisation so it is a bit more welcoming? 

So, I think first step is to get together with the staff and the local communities and families and think about how you can improve the physical environment and also the policies and practices within those services as well. And I think taking it step by step, as a longer term project, I think would be really helpful so it doesn't feel like it’s so overwhelming and it’s something that can be done overnight. But it’s something that you could work together to engage and co-design with families and communities of your local area would be useful. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Mandy. Julie, creating cultural safety as a practitioner in services, your thoughts?

JULIE NGWABI: I will say as practitioners it’s really important, beyond just the physical environment and the physical space, it’s the psychological safety as well. People need to know that despite whatever background or culture they're a part of, when they're accessing a service or engaging with their practitioner, they need to trust that they will be culturally safe. They need to trust that they will engage or interact with their practitioner or organisation in a way that will affirm their diversity, their culture, their ethnicity, without harming them. So, I think it comes back also to that interaction and to that relationship as well. And to that practitioner who is culturally competent and the practitioner who has this ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection and is doing with, working with, not doing for, the person. 

I think that will go a long way in creating culturally safe spaces. Because people from diverse backgrounds, they know what is culturally safe and what is not. So, collaborating with them and engaging them and hearing from them. And, to Mandy’s point, that continuous commitment to quality improvement, taking in all the feedback and incorporating it into policy and practice, will really go a long way to making practice and organisations culturally safe. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Thanks, Julie. And, Wei, what does culturally safe mean for you when you're accessing a service, either on your own or with your children?

WEI GAO: Personally, as a parent, firstly my impression is I'm welcomed, I'm accepted. It’s not like, “Oh, you look different.” And people’s instinct to it is quite significant. I can really feel it really pretty obviously. If I feel like I don't belong here, I'd better just run away. And sometimes people’s attitude is quite important. If you have an open mind and general kindness, it’s like, “Yes, I don't know everything, but I'm curious” I don't mind sharing my experiences with you. So, it build up the relationship, build up the trust. And, also, I feel we’re lucky enough, all the childcare and school and pre-school, we always have a Chinese teacher or educator around who can speak our home language, who knows the culture. And sometimes we can see the Chinese signs in Chinese writing. So, it feels all this actually makes children feel safer. 

It’s like, yes, I grew up Chinese Australian, English background. So, they're all pretty normal, wherever I go is kind of, oh, it’s not something isolated, to actually normalise, yes, Chinese culture is part of Australian culture. It’s within the overall picture. And I really like what Mandy mentioned about co-design. It feels like a lot of policy, a lot of regulations or even a lot of activities can have the people with CALD background involvement or have their voice being heard, it will be really helpful to help them feel safe and feel, yes, I'm part of the community. And I feel helping the parents, helping the family, is helping the children. The children are absorbing everything and they can feel it. They have knowledge about it. 

AMANDA KEMPERMAN: Yeah. Thanks, Wei. Thank you, all of you. Thank you for all of the amazing questions that we were asked today. We had the opportunity to answer only a few of them. I think we’re prompted to potentially do another webinar together. Watch this space for that one. And we wish you all the best in your ongoing practice as professionals, working with culturally and linguistically diverse families and children. Bye for now.

Related resources

Further reading and related resources

  • How the experiences and circumstances of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children and families influence child mental health  
    This practice paper explores how the experiences of children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds can affect child mental health, looking specifically at parents and children who migrated to Australia for non-humanitarian reasons.
  • Culturally informed ways to support mental health in refugee and asylum seeker children  
    This resource provides information about culturally informed ways to support the mental health of refugee and asylum seeker children looking specifically at children and families from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
  • Practicing cultural curiosity when engaging with children and families  
    This resource explores how understanding a family’s cultural context can help practitioners focus on a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. It unpacks how effective engagement requires both ‘cultural competency’ and ‘cultural curiosity’ and frames children and families as a valuable source of cultural knowledge.
  • Approaches to support child mental health in culturally and linguistically diverse communities This webinar, co-produced by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Emerging Minds, explores how practitioners can tailor their approach to work with children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. It focuses on those who work with children and families from non-humanitarian migrant communities and explores proactive engagement and strengths-based approaches to support child mental health. 
  • Cultural considerations to support children from migrant and refugee backgrounds  
    This webinar, co-produced by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Emerging Minds, investigates how a practitioner’s personal values and beliefs about parenting and child-rearing can influence their ability to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of children and families from migrant and refugee backgrounds. It highlights the importance of ‘culturally competent’, ‘culturally curious’ and ‘child-focused’ practices as well as presenting examples of organisational initiatives and practice approaches.  
  • Reflections on culturally competent practice with Mthobeli Ngcanga  
    This podcast from Emerging Minds looks at what culturally competent practice looks like when working with children and families from migrant and refugee communities. Mthobeli Ngcanga, a counselling team leader at Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service, reflects on what is important at the organisational level to support culturally competent practice. 
  • Reflections on culturally competent practice with Nellie Anderson  
    In this podcast from Emerging Minds, Chris Dolman interviews Nellie Anderson, from Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service, about what she has learned about culturally competent practice during her time working with children and adults from a refugee background.
  • Racism, racial discrimination child and youth health  
    This report focuses on Australian data collected in the last five years (2016–2020) on racism, racial discrimination and health. It underscores the high prevalence of racial discrimination experienced by children and young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, and from some ethnic minoritised groups. It also focuses on what works in interventions to reduce the impacts of racism on health. 
  • Speak out against racism (SOAR)  
    This website compiles various resources from the SOAR Project, which was conducted by the ANU Centre for Social Research Methods. It includes information on anti-racism bystander intervention and key findings from the 2017 SOAR survey.
  • Racism and its links to the health of children and young people  
    This fact sheet summarises key findings from various studies examining racism and health and wellbeing in children and young people, in particular the research led by Dr Naomi Priest who was supported by a VicHealth grant. 
  • National Anti-Racism Framework  
    This resource outlines the National Anti-Racism Framework being developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
  • The coin model of privilege and critical allyship: Implications for health  
    This article introduces the Coin Model of Privilege and Critical Allyship as a way to address health inequities and the social determinants of health. It outlines how social structures produce both advantage and disadvantage and how systems of inequality interact to produce complex patterns of privilege and oppression. It suggests critical allyship should guide the actions of people in privilege to resist the unjust structures that produce health inequities.
  • Culturally diverse children's mental health - Emerging Minds 
    This online course discusses the key domains that support children's mental health when working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
  • Culturally responsive practice with CALD families 
    This guide explores the barriers and modes of access to mental health support for children (aged 0–12 years) from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and provides a first step in understanding and applying culturally responsive practice. 
  • Racism, children’s mental health, and anti-racist practice 
    This short article provides a starting point for practitioners to understand racism’s harmful affects on children’s mental health and wellbeing, while introducing ways to support children through anti-racist practice.


Dr Mandy Truong | Research Fellow, Child and Family Evidence

Research Fellow | Child Family Community Australia (CFCA)

Mandy is a public health researcher, educator and health professional with experience in qualitative, mixed methods and evidence synthesis studies on topics including, cultural competency in healthcare, racism and health, refugee and migrant health and family violence. She is currently a Research Fellow in the Child and Family Evidence team at AIFS working primarily on the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange. Prior to joining AIFS in 2022, Mandy worked at Monash Nursing and Midwifery and the Menzies School of Health Research. Mandy also has over 17 years’ experience working as an optometrist in clinical practice and has experience doing consultancy work with organisations seeking to strengthen their cultural capabilities.

Julie Ngwabi profile image

Senior Child Mental Health Advisor | Emerging Minds

Julie is a Senior Child Mental Health Advisor within the Partnerships and Implementation team at Emerging Minds. In this role she engages with health organisations and peak bodies to collaborate and explore opportunities to support integrated practices that promote positive mental health outcomes for infants, children and families. Her background is Mental Health Nursing. She completed General Nurse training in Zimbabwe, and a Diploma in Psychiatric Nursing before moving to Australia with her family in 2004. In Australia, she completed a Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Dual Diagnosis) and a Master’s in Mental Health Nursing. Her passion is family focused mental health care. For the past 10 years she has worked as a Perinatal Mental Health Clinician, Children of Parents with Mental Illness (COPMI) Coordinator and as a Family and Carer Consultant in NSW. She believes in a holistic and systemic approach to mental health care to achieve positive mental health outcomes. Julie is passionate about CALD health, wellbeing and social issues. In her spare time she volunteers to support recently arrived refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the community.

Wei Gao profile picture

Child and Family Partner | Emerging Minds

Wei is a Chinese-Australian mother of two who has lived in Australia for 11 years. Wei has contributed her lived experience to the South Australian Department of Human Services Early Intervention Research Directorate’s Lived Experience Network as a System Advisor, as well as being a Child and Family Partner with Emerging Minds. Wei is a registered secondary teacher in South Australia who currently works with Family by Family as an Educational Kid’s coach, as well as providing interpreter services within the Department of Human Services. Wei is a strong advocate and role model when it comes to standing up to racism and its impacts, particularly for children and families.


Amanda Kemperman profile image

Practice Development Officer | Emerging Minds

Amanda is a Social Worker with 20 years’ experience working in various areas such as domestic violence, homelessness, and community services. Currently, she works with the workforce development team at Emerging Minds translating practitioner and family knowledge and experience into programs and resources. Amanda has a particular interest in advocating for children's voices and promoting their mental health and wellbeing. Her approach is informed by narrative therapy ideas, and she is always inspired by the ways in which people overcome and rise above the challenges in their lives. One of Amanda's joys is bringing people together and facilitating conversations that lead to collaborative change.