The time has come to reconsider the term ‘CALD’
Cathryn Groves, Equal Opportunity Commission
Authored 2013, former Manager at the State Equal Opportunity Commission
Should a more accurate profile of people be developed in order to correctly anticipate service needs? The term in current use, ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ (CALD) must be used cautiously as it assumes homogeneity. CALD describes a group or society composed of people from many different cultural (and linguistic) groups. This term is frequently used to mean multi-ethnic, multi-faith or multi-lingual and owes some of its emerging relevance to the adjective ‘multicultural’ when describing present day Australian society. CALD, however does not adequately describe individuals who are not a part of the majority in Australia nor the diversity of their experiences and does not account for the diversity of backgrounds. This includes those who are visibly different (who look and speak differently) from the majority and as a result, are marginalised or discriminated against.
The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) has been receiving enquiries regarding the functional use of the term CALD as it relates to the identification of barriers. Not only does the term tend to group people together, it also has the real potential to produce exclusion. In effect it camouflages barriers for distinct groups and also fails to acknowledge that ‘racial’ differences contribute to exclusion and by failing to acknowledge this occurrence there is a risk of pathologising ethnic groups as if characteristics of their own culture are the main cause of disadvantage.
Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are excluded from the practical use of the term (including within the term ‘ethnic minority’) and is a conscious decision to implicitly acknowledge their history as First Nation Peoples and because their experiences and needs are significantly different and more acute in some areas than other groups. Resulting from consultations with Aboriginal communities, the use of the term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is preferred. This, and the term ‘ethnic minority’ are now used and promoted by the EOC.