Friday, 16 December 2016 11:37

How well do councils engage with CALD communities?

Dari community group during a waste and sustainability seminar at Cumberland Council. Dari community group during a waste and sustainability seminar at Cumberland Council. Credit: Cumberland Council

Western Sydney is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in Australia.

Consequently, many councils find that engaging with CALD communities is a key element of their communications mix, and a task that is dispersed across a number of departments within council.

In recognition of the need to better engage with all residents, WSROC commissioned a report into how Western Sydney councils work with CALD communities to empower, educate and change behaviour.

Speaking your language: How Western Sydney councils engage with culturally and linguistically diverse communities  looks at how councils engage with communities in order to meet waste targets and sustainability goals, and outlines some of the challenges faced by councils more broadly.

The research looked at best practice within local government and other sectors, conducted an in-depth analysis of demographic data for Western Sydney and conducted qualitative interviews with Western Sydney council officers and other stakeholders working in the region.

Key challenges faced by Western Sydney councils when engaging with CALD groups included:

-          The range of language groups that exist in Western Sydney mean translations and service-development are resource intensive.

-          Rapid rate of demographic change and rapid emergence of new CALD groups.

-          The transience of CALD communities – as new groups move to Australia they may cross council boundaries a number of times before               settling long term.

-           ‘Finding’ CALD communities who don’t make themselves known to council.

These challenges, and how they are addressed varies from council to council based on each LGA’s level of diversity and the communities within it.

Other factors which influence engagement approaches include: resourcing, levels of staff training and experience, and the availability of bilingual staff.

The departments which engaged with CALD communities also vary, but most often include community development, waste and sustainability, and media and communications staff.

The report identified significant opportunities for these staff to work more closely together in future in order to achieve greater outcomes for council as a whole.

Some of the most effective measures used by councils included: face-to-face communication, using existing community groups, visual rather than language-based resources, and making activities fun.

It was also found that successful engagement requires dynamic staff with good connections to community organisations and leaders, council organisational support for CALD engagement, and council-wide strategies and goals for engagement.

WSROC President Cr Stephen Bali said “I would like to thank all council staff who participated in the research. The final report is a great reference point for councils looking to build and improve on their CALD engagement strategies, and will be a reference for best practice for some time to come.

“All councils are facing similar challenges as they strive to engage as much of their community as possible. Working together and learning from each other simply makes sense,” he said.

WSROC will be delivering a number of best-practice guidance sheets to councils in the new year to help councils plan effective programs, avoid common mistakes and learn from neighbouring councils undertaking similar projects.

WSROC is also working through the report outcomes to deliver training, resources and assistance to councils to facilitate more effective engagement.

The project was delivered under the Western Sydney Regional Waste Strategy, a NSW EPA Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.


Full report: 

Speaking your language: How Western Sydney councils engage with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, November 2016 (PDF 1.4 MB)

Last modified on Monday, 19 December 2016 12:27