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This report is the result of a collaboration between the Office of Multicultural Interests and the University of Western Australia which resulted in two reports, one from each organisation. The reports therefore have elements in common. This report acknowledges the contributions of Office of Multicultural Interests; the University of Western Australia and Bridging Cultures Pty Ltd.


The information and advice within this document is provided voluntarily by the Office of Multicultural Interests as a public service. The information and advice is provided in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of this document. The reader of this document should satisfy him or herself concerning its application to their situation. The State of Western Australia, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, the Office of Multicultural Interests, and their officers expressly disclaim liability for any act or omission occurring in reliance on this document or for any consequences of such act or omission.

Executive summary


Understanding the economic and social composition of older Western Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds is essential for informed strategic planning within all levels of government. Moreover, it is necessary to understand the challenges and barriers that face this group to determine what services and supports are required from health, social services and aged care providers to meet diverse needs. For people who have left their countries of origin to settle in Australia it is important that they experience equitable access to, and outcomes from services, which in turn will assist them in navigating the challenges associated with getting older. The paradigm is clear: the nature of contemporary Australian society is changing as the mid-20th century overseas migration program yields an older population cohort, due in part to the longevity boom.

This report provides a review and analysis of the demographic, social and economic data for older Western Australians from CaLD backgrounds and identifies the major trends and issues for these people drawing on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census data from 2006 to 2016, with a close examination of the Western Australian population groups within local government areas. It also provides a contemporary policy view of areas that impact the health and wellbeing of older people on the national, State and local fronts.

Attention has been given to demographic, cultural, socioeconomic and spatial changes and how these changes are impacting on needs related to health, wellbeing, aged care services and the social connectivity of people aged from 55 years from CaLD backgrounds. Wherever possible, the results are compared with those of older people born in Australia and Main English-Speaking Countries (MESC) to assist in understanding the commonalities and differences between these groups. These demographic shifts are occurring at a time when significant reforms have been implemented, including a consumer-directed approach to community aged care and measures implemented to universalise the aged care system with the introduction of the centralised My Aged Care portal. Accordingly, the report includes an analysis of implications of these trends and findings for national and State policies and programs, including the Aged Care Diversity Framework launched in December 2017, and the Aged Care Quality Standards introduced on 1 July 2019. It probes into national policy, which addresses the challenges and barriers faced by older CaLD groups, such as access to and navigation in aged-care services, disability services and the latest reforms that impact on the health and wellbeing outcomes of older Australians. It discusses policy measures that address inequities faced in aged care, including the Aged Care Diversity Framework and action plan for CaLD consumers of aged care released in February 2019.

The review of the data has identified a cycle of vulnerability arising from:

  • a rapid rate of growth of the older age groups
  • low English language proficiency levels
  • limited education
  • lower than average employment rates
  • a decline in personal income levels
  • a high need for assistance with core activities.

The analysis has found that while the percentage of older people in the 85+ age group from CaLD backgrounds is increasing, the number of centenarians spiked mid-decade followed by a notable decline up to 2016. It highlights the need to provide language and communication services to those with the lowest English language proficiency rather than engaging volume measures to determine resource allocation. It also underscores the need for safety-net provision to enable the most vulnerable older people from CaLD backgrounds to protect against the factors that make them vulnerable to a cycle of disadvantage arising from lower income and employment rates and higher rates of disability.

Finally, the report puts forward recommendations for future actions to assist older people in WA from CaLD backgrounds, based on the priorities of the Aged Care Diversity Framework with information and useful inquiry methods designed for self-advocacy in a range of service environments. It is important that due consideration is made to improve existing outcomes for this cohort as the data indicates that there are shortfalls in rates of access to services and, more importantly, a lack of understanding of, and access to, the Australian social and human services sector and their support mechanisms. It also recommends further research into culturally appropriate policies and programs that could help reducing the gaps and reaching the most vulnerable groups.

Purpose of report

The purpose of the report is to provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the demographic, social and economic status of CaLD older people living in Western Australia. It provides an updated profile of Western Australians who are aged 55 years and above and who are from CaLD backgrounds, and provides an insight into their social and economic circumstances to assist in future planning for services. The purpose of the report extends to providing a useful tool for older people from CaLD backgrounds in WA to navigate the challenges and barriers to inclusive service provision in a range of environments. The appendices also provide local government policy makers with information about where specific language and cultural groups are located and where older people with low English language proficiencies are living. The report is unique in nature, as it provides a decade’s worth of analysis on the demographic, social and economic status of culturally and linguistically diverse older people living in Western Australia.

Page reviewed 11 October 2023