The value of a culturally responsive and inclusive Tasmanian Mental Health Sector

Emma Barrett joined the Tasmanian Transcultural Mental Health Network (TTMHN) in June 2020 when she started her role as English as an Additional Language (EAL) Social Worker with the Department of Education. The network aims to strengthen the cultural competency and cultural responsiveness of the mental health workforce in Tasmania. TTMHN members include mental health professionals and allied health professionals with an interest in working responsively with Tasmania’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Emma is appreciative of the access to a local network where Tasmanian professionals in the mental health workforce can connect and share ideas, “It’s wonderful to have a Tasmanian focus and I have used the resource links on the website; it is brilliant to have a local source to go to for information. I especially like the practical guides, one I used recently that was helpful was, ‘Social and Emotional Wellbeing – A Teacher’s Guide.’  It is wonderful to attend trainings and forums to connect with other practitioners in Tasmania,” she said.

TTMHN members benefit in various ways, including access to the latest research, resources, events, and professional development opportunities. Network meetings are held every two months to allow participants an opportunity to:

    • Exchange ideas, information, and resources to support their work
    • Hear from guest speakers to gain insight, knowledge, and expertise
    • Connect with other service providers and organisations working with diverse communities.

The EAL Social Worker acknowledges the need for cultural competency and responsiveness in the Tasmanian Mental Health Workforce and values being connected with TTMHN, “Before my role as EAL Social Worker I had worked with CALD clients but not consistently. It has been a steep learning curve for me, and I have learned so much from the EAL Service and from the community. The TTMHN has been a fantastic resource.”

Attending trainings such as ‘Supporting CALD clients during COVID-19’ has helped Emma to understand the unique needs of her clients and put appropriate supports in place, “there is sometimes a technology barrier, especially for some parents of young children that needed to do online schoolwork during lockdown. It was challenging for these families as there was confusion around what needed to be completed.”

People with low levels of English language ability face linguistic and cultural barriers to appropriate health, legal, and community services. Due to a lack of awareness, these same barriers may also prevent service providers from delivering quality services to all clients.

“My biggest learning came from using interpreters.  It was a bit daunting the first couple of times I used an interpreter; however, now I have become accustomed to it. It is not daunting at all, and I appreciate how it slows things down and allows more space in a meeting for everyone to be heard correctly. It has been a great experience to connect with some of the interpreters that I regularly use as they can give insight to the specific culture and expectations that the client/family may have,” Emma said.

The use of interpreters ensures that clients get the information that they need to understand their rights within different institutional settings and make informed health care or legal decisions. The use of an interpreter offers service providers the ability to deliver quality, equitable care to all their clients.

Emma sheds some light on common assumptions people may have in working with people from CALD community, “It is a learned skill to use interpreters effectively along with a knowledge of the lived experiences of people you are working with. Differing cultural perspectives, trauma backgrounds, and the changes people from different cultures experience when moving to a different culture are fundamental to have knowledge around when working with CALD clients,” Emma said.

Mental health professionals and allied health professionals working with clients from multicultural backgrounds are eligible to join TTMHN. For more information and to join the network, visit the TTMHN website:


Article written by MRC Tas volunteer Tabitha Zachariah.  

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