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12 February 2016

MHiMA Project consultation

Joint submission from the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia and the National Ethnic Disability Alliance

Submitted by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About FECCA: The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) is the national peak body representing Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and their organisations. FECCA provides advocacy, develops policy and promotes issues on behalf of its constituency to Government, and the broader community. FECCA supports multiculturalism, community harmony, social justice and the rejection of all forms of discrimination and racism so as to build a productive and culturally rich Australian society. FECCA’s policies are developed around the concepts of empowerment and inclusion and are formulated with the common good of all Australians in mind.

About NEDA: The National Ethnic Disability Alliance Inc. (NEDA) is the national peak organisation representing the rights and interests of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) and/or non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) with disability, their families and carers. NEDA is also a member of the Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA). NEDA advocates at the federal level for the rights and interests of people from CALD and/or NESB communities with disability, their families and carers so that they are able to participate fully in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life. NEDA also provides policy advice to Government and other relevant agencies to secure equitable outcomes for constituents.


Cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports[1] that at 30 June 2014, 28.1% of Australia’s estimated resident population was born overseas, that is, 6.6 million people. Over 4 million of these were born in non-English speaking countries. Cultural and linguistic diversity is significant aspect of the Australian population, and one of its defining factors. The needs of this large proportion of the population must be taken into account in the development, planning and implementation of government programs and services.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds should be recognised as a vulnerable, and a priority, group in the mental health system and considered as a priority, requiring their unique mental health needs to be met in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. Special consideration in the reforms implementation should be given to new migrants and refugees, particularly in view of the additional humanitarian intake and refugee experiences of torture and trauma, and the need for access to tailored mental health services for individuals and families.


Multicultural mental health focus


A specific approach focusing on mental health for multicultural Australia is essential as it provides a national focus to address and consider the mental health needs of CALD people and communities.




Mental health reform is an important step towards a comprehensive mental health system providing access to person-centric integrated care packages, which will be rolled out in local communities. While the reforms make reference to multicultural communities, it is imperative that a strong focus is placed on people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the implementation. According to the National Mental Health Commission’s Review Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities, people from diverse cultural backgrounds may be less likely to disclose signs or symptoms of mental ill-health and may not feel comfortable seeking help. The Review also identified gaps in culturally competent, sensitive and appropriate mental health and suicide prevention services and programs.




FECCA and NEDA highlight three areas where a dedicated multicultural mental health approach is particularly important.




  1. 1.Older CALD Australians


Older CALD Australians have been recognised as one of the groups at greatest risk of mental illness. Reasons can include traumatic circumstances at, or prior to, migration; loss of identity or sense of disconnection as a result of migration; and lower socio economic status of some older people from CALD backgrounds that can lead to poor knowledge of mental illness and delayed diagnosis.




FECCA’s research[2] shows that older people from a CALD background have a higher risk of mental health issues that the population born in Australia. Older CALD Australians are less likely to use mental health services, and they tend to present at later stages of illness compared to other older people in Australia.




  1. 2.NDIS


This is particularly vital as the mental health needs of people from migrant and refugee backgrounds are not considered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS is charged with addressing the needs of, and providing support to, people with disabilities only. Therefore, it will not provide general mental health supports as only people with profound and enduring psychosocial disabilities will be eligible to access the scheme.




  1. 3.Humanitarian entrants


A total of 199,765 humanitarian entrants have arrived in Australia between 2000 and 2014.[3] Australia’s current humanitarian intake constitutes 13,750 places and is set to increase to 16,250 places in 2017-18 and 18,750 places in 2018-19 financial year[4]. In addition, Australia is in the process of resettling 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees[5]. Experiences of trauma prior to and during the migration process may increase their propensity to face mental health issues. Due to shame, stigma and unawareness about mental health issues amongst this cohort, their engagement with mainstream mental health services remain considerable low. Considering the vastly broad spectrum of experiences of trauma and torture experienced by humanitarian entrants, it is imperative that the mental health services are adequately equipped to provide culturally appropriate services. These services should include, inter alia, cultural awareness, understanding about the civil and political situation in certain countries and cultural sensitivity.




A better structure for mental health for multicultural Australia




FECCA and NEDA recommend that the Australian Government provides targeted funding for a national multicultural mental health structure. The structure must provide an informed, representative and legitimate leadership that will ensure that mental health reforms achieve positive outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse individuals and communities.




We also recommend that rather than a yearly funding cycle requiring annual renegotiation of objectives and outcomes, a move to a 3-5 year funding cycle (with appropriate safeguards). Continuity of funding is important for long-term strategy development and implementation, and achieves better outcomes.












FECCA and NEDA appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback. For further information, please contact the FECCA office on 02 6282 5755 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or the NEDA office on 02 6262 6867 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


[1] Migration, Australia, 2013-14, Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015

[3] NEDA data-cube based on Department of Social Services settlement database.

[4] Minister - Restoring integrity to refugee intake, Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, (accessed on 09/02/2016).

[5] Australia’s response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, (accessed on 09/02/2016).




Disability Employment Services (DES) Consumer Engagement Project

NEDA received a small grant from the Department of Social Services in September last year to engage with our constituents to help improve the delivery of Disability Employment Services (DES).

NEDA has proposed to the Department to conduct a series of consumer-led focus groups which are designed to look at the barriers faced by people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CaLD) and/or non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) with a disability in entering DES programmes.

As part of this project, NEDA will be engaging in states and/or territories with an active membership.

For any further information on this project, please contact Norhawa Bee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (02) 6262 6867


What is Disability Employment Services (DES)?

Disability Employment Services (DES) promote and assist the employment of people with disability by:

  • Assisting people with disability to find work in open employment situations,
  • Assisting employers to employ people with disability, and
  • Supporting the ongoing employment of people with disability.

There are 224 providers of the DES program operating across almost 2000 sites in Australia. The DES program sits within the federal government’s Department of Social Services.

What are the features of Disability Employment Services (DES)?

  • To ensure that all job seekers with disability can access services to help them get and maintain a job,
  • To provide the right assistance as early as possible (including for school leavers) to ensure a successful transition to work,
  • To increase resources for job seekers in remote areas,
  • To place more emphasis on education, training and skills development, and
  • To improve responsiveness to employers.


Am I eligible for Disability Employment Services (DES), and how do I register?

To be registered as a job seeker through DES, you can do the following:

  • Visiting your nearest Centrelink,



  • To ring Centrelink Employment Services line on 132 850


Why should I find work?

Stories of Champions. Listen to Paul’s story and the benefits of finding employment.



What is a Job Capacity Assessment?

Video link:

(I am not sure if we are able to have the video on the website, but if not – I guess a link to the video will be good)

What is an Employment Services Assessment?

Video link:


What if I need help with language services?

All Disability Employment Services providers can help you with language services if you need them.

If you have a question about Disability Employment Services you can call JobAccess on 1800 464 800 and they will help you with an interpreter.

If you need help understanding information, please call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 13 14 50


What if I am not satisfied with the service provided by a DES?

You can submit a Complaints, Compliments and Suggestions Form. This form is available here. (link: )