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Culturally and linguistically diverse families

Reflections from CALD families

Engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse families via telepractice has a unique set of challenges to be considered. Here, we explore ways to help everyone get the most out a session.

Meeting the needs of CALD families

The use of telepractice with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families in child and family support services is an emerging area of practice, with limited evidence on outcomes or best practice (Joshi et al., 2021). While the information on this page may not be relevant for all CALD families, these suggestions have been informed by various sources including parent and practitioner interviews and literature findings.

You can help CALD parents prepare for a telepractice session by:

  • Exploring their level of technological capability: CALD families vary in their use and grasp of technology; some are very familiar with it due to communicating with family and friends overseas, while others do not feel confident in their ability to communicate online. If families require guidance for using telepractice, ideally this guidance will be provided in their language and resources that reflect their background in terms of age, ethnicity and faith. If clients need help to access online services, see the topic ‘How can I help clients access our online services?’ for more ideas.
  • Establishing a session plan and sharing it with them: A session plan may be beneficial for CALD families as it allows for expectations to be set and for families and practitioners to prepare for the session. The session plan can include notes such as: the main topics to be discussed, materials to have handy, and can highlight that the family members will have the opportunity to ask any questions.

Connecting with families via telepractice

CALD families generally feel that online sessions can be beneficial. The relationships made between client and practitioner in online sessions will often mirror the experience in face-to-face sessions. There are several factors that may impact on the client-practitioner relationship, as listed below.

Practitioner background

Research indicates CALD clients may prefer to be seen by a practitioner who is also from a culturally diverse background, as they feel it is easier for them to understand their experiences. CALD clients may feel more comfortable to open-up to a practitioner from a different cultural background to their own, however, due to a lack of trust and/or fear of judgement by those from a similar background.

Because preferences vary significantly, where possible it’s best to present families with a choice as to whether they prefer a practitioner from the same or different cultural background.

Family background

As a practitioner, it is important to listen to the concerns of your client with curiosity. This will help you to support the CALD family and establish a more trusting relationship via telepractice.

Each CALD family will have their own experiences and needs, which may be different for families even from the same country or region. Key characteristics to consider, in order to plan your response at a family level, include ethnicity, language, faith and the family’s settlement journey. In addition, it may be helpful to understand sources of information that the family relies on, such as overseas news sources or community leaders.

Check in to make sure the approach you take suits the family and their circumstances, including any nuanced differences based on the above characteristics.

A key factor in being culturally responsive is thinking about the messages that are being communicated when working with a family and how these may create additional barriers or facilitators when delivering services via telepractice.


CALD families may require or prefer to have an interpreter present in the session. A recent Delphi study conducted by the Parenting Research Centre indicated that allowing pauses in a session to enable time for communication to be relayed by a translator is important, as well as the ability for the practitioner, interpreter and client to be able to see and hear each other clearly on video where feasible (Hamilton, Petrovic, Gill, May & Wade, unpublished).

Further information on using interpreters:

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References and bibliography


Donaghy, E., Atherton, H., Hammersley, V., McNeilly, H., Bikker, A., Robbins, L., Campbell, J. & McKinstry, B. (2019). Acceptability, benefits and challenges of video consulting: a qualitative study in primary care. British Journal of General Practice. 69 (686).

Felton, E. (2014). A/Effective connections: Mobility, technology and well-being. Emotion, Space and Society. 13, 9-15.

Felton, E. (2015). Migrants, refugees, and mobility: how useful are information communication technologies in the first phase of resettlement? Journal of Technologies in Society, 11(1), 1-13.

Freckmann, A., Hines, M., & Lincoln, M. (2017). Clinicians’ perspectives of therapeutic alliance in face-to-face and telepractice speech-language pathology sessions. International journal of speech-language pathology, 19(3), 287–296.

Hamilton, V., Petrovic, Z., Gill, A., May, F., & Wade, C. (2021). Delphi Study: Expert Consensus on Best Practice in Telepractice in the Family Services Sector. Report to the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. Parenting Research Centre, Melbourne: Unpublished.

Joshi, A., Paterson, N., Hinkley, T., & Joss, N. (2021). The use of telepractice in the family and relationship services sector. CFCA Paper No. 57. Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Powell, R., Ratnam, C., Wickes, R. & Keel, C. (2020). Filling the digital knowledge gap for organisations dealing with diverse communities. Monash University.

Sawrikar, P. & Katz, I. (2008). Enhancing family and relationship service accessibility and delivery to culturally and linguistically diverse families in Australia. Family Relationships Clearinghouse. 3.

University of Sydney. (2020, April). Conversation starters for families.

University of Sydney. (2020, March). Family Time- tips for using video chats.


This work is supported by the Victorian Government Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.
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