Are you thinking about becoming an independent support worker? Here’s why your cultural background could be your best asset.

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A new report from the UNSW social policy research centre has revealed that 37% of Australia’s frontline care workers were born overseas. This represents a greater proportion compared to the general workforce, and it’s increasing every year. As we kick off Harmony Week in Australia, we look at why cultural diversity is a great thing for the sector, and why it can be your best asset if you’re thinking about signing up as an independent support worker on Mable.

Harmony Week is about celebrating inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. Just like food and shelter, belonging is an essential human need. But belonging can mean different things to different people. Harmony Week doesn’t just celebrate different cultures belonging to one shared vision of a multicultural Australia. It’s also about recognising the importance of maintaining connections to your heritage. This can be especially true for people who need support in their day to day lives.

According to Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, being cared for by someone who understands our background can make all the difference to a happier and healthier life. It can also fulfill a practical purpose to break down barriers for people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in accessing public services. Despite having similar rates of disability as other Australians, people born in a non-English speaking country are half as likely to receive formal disability assistance.

So, with an industry that’s crying out for more skilled aged care and disability support workers, here are some of the reasons why your cultural heritage could mean you’re in even greater demand.

Different communities have different needs and values

For many people receiving aged care and disability support, nothing compares to the comfort of receiving support from someone who understands you and your life. That’s what person-centred care is all about. For some people, that includes an understanding of your heritage and how that can impact your decisions, priorities and goals. Cultural awareness and sensitivity are huge factors here. Something as simple as a nod or shake of the head can mean different things in different cultures. Misinterpreting that can have an impact on someone’s ability to communicate. A recognition of cultural days of celebration or religious observance can also be a central part of someone’s life. A support worker who understands the significance and can share in the celebration can be a big comfort to clients and their families.

You can speak the language

Anyone who speaks English as a second language can attest to the frustration that it can cause when you can’t find the right words. For people whose English is limited, every day conversations can be exhausting, and limited vocabulary can prevent you from being able to communicate beyond small talk. As someone who speaks more than one language, you can offer clients an additional service that others can’t. Navigating public services and communicating with healthcare professionals is one area of need for people who speak English as a second language. Make sure you list your languages on your profile, as it’s often one of the first thing that clients are looking for.

The numbers are on your side

More than a quarter of Australians (26 per cent) were born overseas, and of these, two thirds were born in non-English speaking countries. In 2016, there were 3.7 million Australians aged 65 years and over. Of this number, one-third were born in a non-English speaking country. As the country’s need for aged care workers increases, so too does our need for workers from similar backgrounds.
Similarly, in the disability sector, Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds have historically been underrepresented. The NDIS recognises that factors such as language, duration of time in Australia and geographic location can affect a person’s confidence and ability to access disability supports. There’s huge demand for support workers who can help to bridge that gap. In this context, having an understanding of where clients’ funding is coming from in addition to language skills can help you to become an in-demand independent worker.

You have the right networks

Everyone knows somebody that needs support. Last year, we introduced you to Frossini, who was delivering care to Melbourne’s Greek community. She says that most of her work came via referral from clients’ family members. Your existing communities provide a wealth of contacts with potential work opportunities. As independent workers offering services through Mable, you’re able to introduce your own clients to the platform. But it’s not only just about canvassing friends and family. Get in touch with local outreach organisations who are there to provide support to CALD communities, and let them know about the services you’re providing.

Ready to start supporting people in your community? Sign up as an independent support worker today