Living in Harmony: Resourcing Culturally & Linguistically Diverse students

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By Dawn Wade:

Did you know that 1 in 4 Australians were born overseas? That 45% of Australians are either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas? In fact around 7 million people have migrated to Australia since 1945. Australians identify with approximately 300 ancestries, including the traditional owners of the land, the Aboriginal and Torres Straits peoples. So when we say that Australia is a multicultural country , we are not exaggerating!

The Transcultural Support: Study Success website is aimed at first year students from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds transitioning into university study. It is also a useful website for any student wanting to find out ways of making friends, tips for a good first year, 10 practical things you can do to help you settle into your studies, adjusting to a new country and culture, and where to get help, with links to internal UWS resources as well as external resources such as Transcultural Mental Health and Refugee Council of Australia.

If you would like to know more about the website or the diverse composition of the UWS student population on each campus look at the www.uws.edu.au/livinginaustralia site and click on the campus map.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) students are not only international students, but all permanent residents of Australia who have been or whose family have been voluntary migrants, or people who have migrated on a Humanitarian visa after being a refugee. At UWS 35% of students speak a language other than English at home.

A refugee is a person who has left their home country as a result of persecution and violence, political unrest, war, or natural disasters, with no hope of returning to their home country. In 2012 there were 44 million refugees worldwide. Find out more at websites such as Amnesty International  http://www.amnesty.org.au/refugees/    or Australian Human Rights Commission at:  https://www.humanrights.gov.au/.

UWS Student Support Services recognise that we are not a monoculture. Culture is viewed as an asset, with respect for the multiple ways human beings determine how they choose to live. We celebrate Harmony Day every year on 21st March, an initiative of DIAC, the 2015 catch phrase being ‘Living in Harmony’. See http://www.harmony.gov.au/

How do we as a university community continue to celebrate and respect cultural diversity outside of events such Harmony Day or Diversity Festival? How do we create a community where we are ‘Living in Harmony’?

A well-accepted idea is to take a personal stand against intellectual laziness that attributes negative attributes to another group of people based on such things as their race, sexuality, skin colour or religion. Start by widening your own experience of others – get to know people outside of your own ‘culture’ and learn how they think and feel. Start looking at difference as something to be explored and respected, not judged and feared. We can make a difference to the social and political environment, just as we can and do make a difference to the natural environment.

We can help make a newly migrated or international student feel welcomed and valued as part of the university community. Think outside the box. Ask an International student home to meet the family or share a meal together. Sit next to the student who looks and sounds different to you and strike up a conversation. If you are tempted to stereotype another person-all of them are just the same- think about it first. Racism or intolerance keeps us all separate when we could be united on so many fronts. Remember, positive change is motivated by feelings of shared humanity, rather than geographical or racial identity. Just look at the phenomenon of http://movement.makepovertyhistory.com.au/ aiming to rid the world of poverty.

If you would like to add your contribution to the conversation on how UWS Student Support Services can support CALD students please email the Student Support Services Senior Research Officer, Transcultural Development Research Tobias Andreasson, at  T.Andreasson@uws.edu.au

The following list summarises what students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds need from a university community:

  • Acknowledgement of their experiences
  • Acknowledgement of different learning styles
  • Acknowledgement of the value of their experiences to the university community
  • Assistance to achieve their potential including skill development, cultural adjustment, English language proficiency, computer literacy, information literacy etc.;
  • To understand what is expected of them and what they can expect of the university, and;
  • Support in facing feelings of isolation and uncertainty in dealing with racism or indifference.

As a UWS counsellor I speak with students from CALD backgrounds or international students every day. If this article has raised issues you would like to discuss in a confidential environment, please contact the Counselling Service on 9852 5199 to make a face to face or telephone appointment, or email a counsellor using eCounselling

 

 

Dawn Wade is a UWS Counsellor based on Bankstown campus. Dawn, a Clinical Social Worker, has been a member of the UWS community for over 15 years, and a university counsellor for over 25 years. Dawn has been responsible for the development of the Transcultural Support : study success website for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in collaboration with Student Support Services, International Student Support, and support and advice of the UWS Communications Unit.  Dawn is a member of the UWS Transcultural Working group. The Transcultural Working Group is an initiative of the UWS Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2012-2015. 

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