Accurate and consistent identification of those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, along with their service needs, is needed to achieve the objectives of the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds (the Strategy).

In 2011, 18% of the Australian population was born overseas in 'non-main English-speaking countries'. Among those over 65, however, 22% were from 'non-main English-speaking countries'. The overseas-born population has an older age structure than the Australian-born population, with 18% of people born overseas aged 65 and over, compared with 12% of people born in Australia.

This paper presents findings from a review of 43 data sets and assessment instruments to identify the range of CALD measures employed in survey, census, administrative and research data collections in Australia and internationally. The review identified 11 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) standard measures (excluding Indigenous status) and 30 additional measures.

A set of criteria for evaluating the measures was adopted during a stakeholder workshop, and the 41 measures identified were evaluated according to the criteria and with reference to the Aged Care Act 1997, the goals of the Strategy, and aged care sector standards. The aim was to develop a set of recommendations appropriate to aged care data sets.

Of the 15 aged care data sets reviewed, 10 used the ABS measures 'Country of birth' and 'Main language spoken at home'/'Main language other than English spoken at home', although lack of standardisation to the ABS data collection method reduces the comparability of data within data sets, across data sets, and with ABS population data. Two assessment instruments-Australian Community Care Needs Assessment-Ongoing Needs Identification (ACCNA-ONI), and Carer Eligibility and Needs Assessment (CENA)-stand out for the range of CALD measures used: they cover both CALD statistical measurement and the associated service needs (for example, need for an interpreter).

ABS CALD measures provide for statistical measurement of cultural and linguistic diversity, but not the associated service needs. This paper recommends that:

  • Data sets without CALD measures should employ, as a minimum, the ABS measures
  • 'Country of birth' and 'Main language spoken at home', augmented with 'Interpreter required', 'Preferred sex of interpreter' and 'Preferred language', where the main language is other than English.
  • Data sets with selected ABS measures should ensure they comply with ABS data collection methods, and where possible, augment the measures to include 'Interpreter required', 'Preferred sex of interpreter' and 'Preferred language', where the main language is other than English.
  • 'Proficiency in spoken English' and 'Year of arrival', along with 3 linked measures that are associated with spirituality, are also recommended for supplemental inclusion.