Country of birth of person
‘Country of birth of person’ is coded using the ‘Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016’. For more information on the ‘Country of birth of persons’ data item in the 2021 Census, see Country of birth of person (BPLP).
Country of birth is the most commonly used indicator of CALD, and the one for which most information is collected and reported (ABS 1999; AIHW 2022). It is easy to define and is consistent over time, however it has its limitations. For example, country of birth alone does not provide information on the year that people arrived in Australia, which can impact their familiarity with the Australian society and practices.
Year of arrival in Australia
‘Year of arrival in Australia’ reports the year in which a person born overseas first arrived in Australia to live for one year or more. For more information on this indicator, see Year of arrival in Australia (YARP).
This report presents this information using ‘Years spent in Australia’, calculated as the difference between the year of arrival and the year of the 2021 Census. People who were born in Australia are also presented for comparison.
Two categorisations of ‘Years spent in Australia’ for people born overseas were used for the analyses presented in this report:
- ‘0–5 years’, ‘6–10 years’, ‘11–15 years’ and ‘more than 15 years’
- ‘0–10 years’ and ‘more than 10 years’
The latter was used where ‘Years spent in Australia’ was analysed in combination with other indicators, including ‘Country of birth of person’ and ‘Proficiency in spoken English’. This approach maximised the number of populations to report without compromising the confidentiality and reliability of the data.
In this report, people who have spent ‘0–10 years’ and ‘more than 10 years’ in Australia since first arrival are referred to as ‘recent arrivals’ and ‘early arrivals’, respectively
The length of time migrants have been in Australia can give an indication of how familiar they are with Australian society and health practices (ABS 1999; AIHW 2022). It is also useful to explore how the social characteristics of migrants change with length of time spent in Australia (ABS 1999). However, when used individually, it fails to inform on socio-cultural differences between the populations. It also does not take into account the fact that as an individual spends more time in the host country, their proficiency in the language can improve, thereby enhancing their ability to access healthcare (AIHW 2022).
Country of birth of persons and Year of arrival combined
Combining the ‘Country of birth of person’ and ‘Year of arrival’ (analysed as ‘Years spent in Australia’) can provide useful information on the extent to which people who arrived in Australia from different countries have become familiar with the Australian society, practices, and the Australian health system (ABS 1999; AIHW 2022). It can also be useful for identifying how the health outcomes of people who born in the same country may have differed by their length of residence in Australia, and whether the differences in health outcomes between the overseas-born and the Australian-born populations has changed over time.
Language used at home
‘Language used at home’ identifies whether a person uses a language other than English at home and if so, records the main non-English language which is used. This indicator is coded, using the ‘Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2016’. For more information on the ’Language used at home’ data item in the Census see Language used at home (LANP).
The language used at home indicator has unique strengths. It identifies a second language other than English and can inform the extent to which community languages are retained by their community or replaced by English and is a component of understanding ethnicity (ABS 1999; AIHW 2022). A limitation of this indicator is that it includes people whose first, main and most proficient language is English in a category with individuals whose use of a language other than English may only be marginal. It also fails to inform the differences in peoples’ proficiency in English within a population who reported the same language as their main language other than English used at home.
Proficiency in spoken English
‘Proficiency in spoken English’ in the 2021 Census was collected only for those who nominate speaking a language other than English at home and the indicator classifies a person's self-assessed proficiency in spoken English where they identified that they use a main language other than English at home. This item also includes the ‘English (only)’ category referring to people who use English only at home. For more information on the this Census data item, see Proficiency in spoken English (ENGLP).
Main results for ‘Proficiency in spoken English’ were presented at the most detailed level available from the 2021 Census, consisting of the categories: ‘Very well’, ‘Well’, ‘Not Well’ and ‘Not at all’.
When ‘Proficiency in spoken English’ was analysed in combination with the ‘Languages used at home’ or the ‘Years spent in Australia’ indicators, it was categorised as ‘Very well or well’ and ‘Not well or not all’. This approach maximised the number of populations to report without compromising the confidentiality and reliability of the data.
Proficiency levels of spoken English are referred to as high (‘very well or well’) and low (‘not well or not at all’) in this report.
This information is useful to identify those who may experience barriers in accessing services due to their lack of ability in spoken English (ABS 1999). It is important to note that the indicator does not provide information on other aspects of communication such as listening, reading, and writing, which are also relevant to understanding health information. Additionally, a person’s assessment of their ability to speak English is subjective, as different people may have different requirements for spoken English proficiency in everyday life (ABS 1999; AIHW 2022).
Language used at home and Proficiency in spoken English combined
The ‘Language used at home’ indicator in the 2021 Census provides information on ethnicity that cannot be collected from the ‘Proficiency in spoken English’ indicator at the same level of detail, while ‘Proficiency in spoken English’ can inform on potential disadvantage when accessing services or programs.
There may be differences in proficiency in spoken English within a population who share the same language, and across the different populations grouped by the languages used at home. In 2021, around 1 in 3 (30.5%) Australians who used Vietnamese as the main language other than English at home did not speak English well or at all, compared with around 1 in 11 (8.8%) of those who used Punjabi at home (ABS 2022a).
Combining language used at home with proficiency in spoken English can help understand differences in health service or program access between CALD groups.
Proficiency in spoken English and Year of arrival combined
Combining the proficiency in spoken English and the year of arrival data may provide information on migrants for whom English language proficiency may have been a barrier to access health services over longer periods of time (ABS 1999; AIHW 2022). It can help account for the differences in potential disadvantage between population groups by the years spent in Australia.
The relevant sections of this report focus on the results for the most common 20 countries of birth other than Australia and the most common 20 languages used at home other than English. However, results for all countries of birth and all languages used at home (as coded in and reported by the corresponding Census indicators) are also included in the corresponding interactive data visualisations. The most common 20 countries of birth other than Australia and the most common 20 languages used at home other than English in Australia are referred to as the ‘most common 20 overseas countries of birth’ and the ‘most common 20 non-English language groups’, respectively, throughout this report. The term ‘language group’ used in this report refers to a population grouped by the specific language (e.g., Arabic as indicated in the Census, rather than a group of languages originating from the same region (e.g., Middle Eastern Semitic languages).
This report presents the ‘Country of birth of persons’ and ‘Language used at home’ at the most detailed level of their corresponding classifications, as well as the following ‘supplementary codes and categories’ included in these indicators:
- ‘so described’ – these categories hold responses that are broader than the highest category of the variable
- ‘not elsewhere classified (nec)’ – these categories are used for responses where there isn’t a specific category in the classification
- ‘not further defined (nfd) ‘– these categories are used when enough information exists to partially code a response, but there is not enough information to code it to the most detailed category in the classification
For more information on supplementary codes and categories used in Census indicators, visit Understanding supplementary codes in Census variables.