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Step 6 - Calibrating diversity variables

Calibrating diversity variables

Cultural competence in:

Calibrating diversity variables (Australia)

Acronyms and groupings of ‘otherness’ and diversity

Non-English Speaking Background (NESB)

There has been an official shift away from using NESB as a measure of cultural diversity and related need or disadvantage. NESB is no longer considered to be an appropriate measure of culturally related disadvantage, in terms of access to government services, for a variety of reasons:

  • the term has many conflicting definitions;
  • it groups people who are relatively disadvantaged with those who are not disadvantaged;
  • it is unable to separately identify the many cultural and linguistic groups in Australian society; and
  • it has developed negative connotations.

NESB is seen as an oversimplified indicator of disadvantage which may result in inappropriate service provision and neglect the positive aspects of cultural and linguistic diversity. Consequently, government agencies at all levels have increasingly sought to develop a more accurate, effective and consistent measure of cultural and language diversity in order to improve strategic planning and evaluation of service programs.

At a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (COMIMA) in May 1996, Commonwealth and State Ministers noted the problems associated with the use of NESB and agreed that the term and its acronym be dropped, where possible, from official communications. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1999)

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALDB)

The Australian Cultural and Language Indicators Pilot Study (CLIP) determined the type of data necessary to replace NESB, and to provide a way for cultural and language diversity to be more effectively built into the strategic planning and reporting processes associated with program or service delivery. The Minimum Core Set consists of four variables: Country of Birth of Person, Main Language Other Than English Spoken at Home, Proficiency in Spoken English, and Indigenous Status. Indigenous Status forms part of the core set for those collections which are not specifically focussed on migrants to Australia. The full Standard Set also includes Ancestry, Country of Birth of Father, Country of Birth of Mother, First Language Spoken, Languages Spoken at Home, Main Language Spoken at Home, Religious Affiliation, and Year of Arrival in Australia. Any of these variables can be added to the Minimum Core Set variables to collect other relevant cultural and language diversity data to meet particular information need.