ECCV has partnered with the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) to release a joint statement, titled Preventing alcohol and other drug harm in multicultural communities, highlighting the significant barriers migrant and refugee communities face in accessing alcohol and other drug (AOD) support.

Research shows that people from migrant and refugee backgrounds are markedly under-represented in the use of AOD treatment services with 95% of people engaging AOD treatment speaking English at home compared to 73% of people in the community at large.

This does not mean people in our diverse communities are not in need. Instead, this points to major gaps in the capacity of the current one-size-fits-all system to provide culturally safe and inclusive care.

Our joint statement outlines the key challenges to service access for multicultural communities, including:

  • Lack of culturally responsive services
  • Inadequate data detailing the prevalence of AOD use within migrant and refugee communities  
  • Feelings of dislocation and isolation, as well as stigma and shame which can be heightened in some communities
  • Lack of familiarity with Australian health systems and services  
  • Increased vulnerability to problematic AOD use due to experiences of torture, trauma, grief and loss
  • Referrals to forensic services instead of treatment services, highlighting lost opportunities for preventative engagement and early intervention via the voluntary system

Resourcing bicultural workers is an effective way to address the lack of cultural responsiveness in the AOD treatment system. Bicultural workers play a vital role in increasing the cultural competence of agencies and service providers and enabling them to safely engage people from migrant and refugee communities.

Empowering bicultural workers should be coupled with increased funding for multicultural and ethno-specific organisations to lead health promotion campaigns that are tailored to the communities they work with.

The joint statement also details the importance of strengthening partnerships between AOD services and the multicultural sector to build a coordinated and culturally inclusive service model.