People from non English speaking background with disability in Australia: What does the data say

26 March 2010


Australia is an increasingly diverse country, with a robust history of migration which has a strong impact upon Australian values, culture and composition, particularly with respect to the contribution that has been made by of a growing proportion of Australians with non English speaking background (NESB) ancestry. People from diverse backgrounds also include people with impairment and illness, with an increasingly large number of Australians from non English speaking backgrounds with disability. 
Despite evidence of a strong impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on the ‘face’ of Australia, there remains very little data on the role of non English speaking migration in shaping contemporary Australia and Australians. 
While data is released through Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys on select characteristics for migrants and people born in countries where English is not the primary language, the sophistication of this reporting has arguably been lacking. 
For example, as is discussed below, while the ABS Census of Population and Housing includes questions on ancestry, the ABS is yet to release a substantial analysis on the ancestry of Australians, and how this might shape outcomes and characteristics for different population groups. 
Similarly, it is fair to say that within the Australian social policy literature, there has been a lack of analysis on how culture, language and faith affect participation and socio-economic outcomes, or how and whether these circumstances change between first and second generation migrants. It is palpably apparent that in
order to understand social inclusion and exclusion in Australia, cultural, linguistic and faith diversity must also be understood, yet there is scant analysis in Australia of work in this area. 
This report highlights issues of significance for people from NESB with disability on the basis of the currently available data.

Further, it highlights areas for urgent improvement with respect to data collection and analysis.
Embracing such improvements will go a long way towards assessing progress of a socially inclusive Australia, avoiding discrimination against people from NESB with disability on the basis of lack of accountability alone.

Image: Monkwhy / flickr

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Sibylle Kaczorek, Dinesh Wadiwel, Brian Cooper, 2010, People from non English speaking background with disability in Australia: What does the data say, National Ethnic Disability Alliance, viewed 27 April 2017, <>.

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