New South Wales is a culturally diverse state. According to The People of Australia report released by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in June, 34.2 per cent of the Sydney population was born overseas. Overall, 24.6 per cent of the Australian population was born overseas. The report was based on figures from the 2011 census.
The Australian Government has recognised the importance of this diversity in their Multicultural Plan 2013-15 for the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The diverse range of cultural and linguistic communities in Australia can cause challenges for people when they engage with the family law system in Australia.
The foreword of the plan states that approximately one-third of marriages in Australia end in divorce. In more than forty percent of these divorces, one or both of the partners are born overseas. Settlement can cause issues for families that have recently arrived in Australia, which could in turn increase the likelihood of a family breakdown or put strain on relationships, the foreword explains.
What is the Multicultural Plan?
The plan sets out actions that the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia will take to tailor services, communication and products to ensure the needs of their diverse client community is met.
The four focus areas will be
- Building cultural competence - Capacity-building strategies will be incorporated within the service system. One of these strategies will be cultural competency.
- Community education/legal literacy - The process of engaging with the family law system in Australia can be assisted through documents and information being made available to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
- Enhancing service integration - The plan takes an inter-agency approach. Collaboration between agencies to identify and address issues of cultural diversity is an important focus area of the plan. This will be achieved through sharing information between agencies, coordinating programs, collaborating on projects and publicising good practice.
- Enhancing the use of interpreters - Interpreters are important to ensure that the law is understood by all parties no matter their circumstances. Strategies for adequate and competent interpreting services will be formulated and put in place.
A working group was set up in June 2014 to review the client service charter, and the charter is expected to be updated to reflect the expectations of culturally and linguistically diverse clients.
A timeline for carrying out the plan will see continual development within the court services throughout 2014 and the annual report is expected to include analysis of key performance indicators in both 2014 and 2015.