Emerging Minds

Culturally responsive practice strategies for children’s mental health

About the course

This course focuses on practice strategies to support your work with culturally diverse families and promote the mental health of children aged 4–12 years. It will take you through five key skills and fundamental practice approaches for working with families from diverse cultural backgrounds.

This course follows on from Emerging Minds’ foundation course, Understanding children's mental health in culturally diverse communities, which introduces four domains for consideration when working with culturally diverse families. We recommend completing that course as a foundation for the practical knowledge explored in this course.

Who is this course for?

This course is for practitioners who want to develop their confidence, cultural humility and curiosity, to collaboratively work with culturally diverse children, parents, families and communities.

Learning aims/outcomes

This course will help to develop your skills in:

  • providing a strengths-based approach to support children and families responding to racism
  • navigating cultural tensions and conflicts when working with families
  • working as a facilitator with family members to elevate family values, trace family histories and connections, and renew family members’ commitments to one another
  • exploring, locating and enabling families’ skills and wisdom
  • correcting any cultural mistakes you may make in your work with culturally diverse families.

The experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities are impacted by racism more than any other group in Australia. Experiencing racial discrimination while accessing institutions and interventions that are not culturally responsive and safe has a substantial and cumulative negative effect on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children report the highest levels of racially discriminatory treatment in Australia.1

Although we acknowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families are culturally and linguistically diverse, this short course does not have the scope to cover the complexities of their experiences in the detail they deserve. If you would like to learn more about strategies to support the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, check out our range of courses:

Using inclusive language to describe children and families from diverse cultural backgrounds

We acknowledge that labelling people as ‘culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)’ may be stigmatising and inadvertently perpetuate the homogenising and marginalisation of cultural groups. To address this, we have tried to use more inclusive language, referring to children and families from ‘cultures different to your own or ‘diverse cultural backgrounds.

By using language that acknowledges and celebrates cultural diversity, our goal is to promote personal cultural reflection, foster greater learning from all cultures, and avoid reinforcing the dominant culture.


It is estimated that this course will take you approximately two hours to complete, including reading material and watching videos.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow these self-care tips and seek help if needed:

  • We don't recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or SANE Australia on 1800 187 263.


For the purposes of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.1

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

Social and emotional wellbeing is also used by some people from CALD backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.4

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) is a broad term used to describe communities with diverse languages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, traditions, societal structures and religions.5 When we use this term, we are referring to someone who was born or whose parent/s were born in a non-Anglo-Celtic country and who speaks a primary language other than English at home.6 As previously mentioned, this definition does not include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Refugee, humanitarian migrant and asylum seeker are all terms that refer to people who have been forced to leave their homes due to persecution, conflict or other crises. However, there are some differences between these terms: refugees have legal protection under international law; humanitarian migrants have been granted visas for humanitarian reasons, and asylum seekers are waiting for their claims to be assessed.7

An international migrant is defined as ‘any person who changes his or her country of usual residence’.8 The ‘country of usual residence’ is the country in which a person has a place to live and where they normally spend the daily period of rest. 

A long-term international migrant is a person who moves to another country for a period of at least 12 months, so that the country of destination effectively becomes their new ‘country of usual residence’.9

The term Western generally refers to those societies that have their origins in Europe and North America and that are characterised by a range of shared values, traditions and institutions. These include democracy, individualism, capitalism, free speech, scientific rationalism and human rights. 

The exact definition of what constitutes the ‘West’ may vary depending on context and perspective, but it is often used to describe a set of political, economic and cultural ideals that have become dominant in many parts of the world.10

The term Anglo-Celtic generally refers to people or cultural practices that are associated with the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples, who have historical roots in the British Isles. The term is often used to describe people of white European descent who are native English speakers and have a cultural heritage that is primarily derived from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. It may also be used more broadly to describe cultural practices or traditions that are associated with these groups, such as literature, music or religious beliefs.11

Acculturation is the continuous negotiation of a person’s relationship with their culture in a new environment. It involves the dual process of cultural and psychological change resulting from contact between two or more cultural groups.12 

Assumed knowledge

Please complete the course Understanding children's mental health in culturally diverse communities prior to undertaking this practice strategies course.


This course draws on the latest research, clinical insights, and the lived experience of our child and family partners. We’d like to thank the professionals and families who played an integral role in shaping this course, generously offering their time, wisdom and unique perspectives.

We would also like to thank the children and teenagers we partnered with to create the artworks you will see in this course. Please take a moment to pause as you view each artwork and consider the views and perspectives the children are sharing.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: development of a Children’s Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra, ACT: AIHW.
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National Strategic Framework For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister.
  3. Everymind. (2020). Understanding mental health, mental ill-health and suicide. Newcastle: Everymind.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children 2009. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW.
  5. Joshi, A., & Gartoulla, P. (2022). How the experiences and circumstances of culturally and linguistically diverse children and families influence child mental health. Adelaide: Emerging Minds.
  6. The UN Refugee Agency. (2023). About UNCHR. Geneva: UNHCR.
  7. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2012). Toolkit on International Migration. New York: UN DESA.
  8. Australian Red Cross. (2023). Refugee and asylum seekers facts. Melbourne: Australian Red Cross.
  9. Fierke, K. M. (2010). Critical theory, security, and emancipation. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies.
  10. Rahim, R. A., Pilkington, R., D’Onise, K., & Lynch, J. (2020). Capturing cultural and linguistic diversity in child health research in Australia. MedRxiv.
  11. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Health expenditure Australia 2018-19. Canberra: AIHW.
  12. Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29(6), 697–712.

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