Emerging Minds

Understanding children's mental health in culturally diverse communities

About the course

Understanding children’s mental health in culturally diverse communities explores practice considerations that support culturally responsive and inclusive practice with families. It introduces four key areas to consider when working with families from a culture different to your own:

  • migration and acculturation journeys
  • cultural identities
  • cultural family practices; and
  • racism and unconscious bias.

This course aims to highlight why these domains are important and how they impact a child’s mental health and wellbeing.

Who is this course for?

This course is for any practitioner who wants to develop their practice of working with culturally diverse children, parents and families.

This is a foundation course and will introduce the key concepts and fundamental practice considerations for working with families from diverse cultural backgrounds. Some practice skills will be mentioned; however, the aim of this course is to provide the foundational knowledge that underpins culturally responsive practice.

Learning aims/outcomes

This course aims to:

  • increase practitioners' understanding of child mental health in a culturally diverse context
  • support practitioners to identify and explore four key domains of cultural considerations with families
  • encourage cultural curiosity and an exploration of a child and family’s migration and acculturation journeys
  • encourage practitioners to highlight and enable families’ wisdom and practices
  • challenge practitioners to reflect on their language and unintentional cultural biases; and
  • motivate practitioners to develop community connections to enable trust and access for families to support services.

Using inclusive language to describe children and families from different cultures

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.


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 the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not 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.2

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.3

‘Social and emotional wellbeing’ is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.4

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.5

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 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

The term mainstream services refers to generalist baseline services such as healthcare, housing and education. These services target all Australians and are predominantly provided by government agencies for little or no cost.12


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.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

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


  1. Priest, N., Chong, S., Truong, M., Sharif, M., Dunn, K., Paradies, Y., … Kavanagh, A. (2018). Findings from the 2017 Speak Out Against Racism (SOAR) student and staff surveys. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 55(1), 99–114.
  2. 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.
  3. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing 2017-2023. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6.
  4. Everymind. (2020). Understanding mental health, mental ill-health and suicide. Newcastle, NSW: Everymind.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra, ACT: AIHW.
  6. Joshi, A., & Gartoulla, P. (2022). How the experiences and circumstances of culturally and linguistically diverse children and families influence child mental health. Adelaide, South Australia: Emerging Minds.
  7. The UN Refugee Agency. (2023). About UNCHR. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR.
  8. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2012). Toolkit on International Migration. New York, NY: UN DESA
  9. Australian Red Cross. (2023). Refugee and asylum seekers facts. Melbourne, VIC: Australian Red Cross.
  10. Fierke, K. M. (2010). Critical theory, security, and emancipation. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies.
  11. Rahim, R. A., Pilkington, R., D’Onise, K., & Lynch, J. (2020). Capturing cultural and linguistic diversity in child health research in Australia. MedRxiv.
  12. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Health expenditure Australia 2018-19. Canberra: AIHW.

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