Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census data identifies that people in Australia have over 300 ancestries and languages and suggests as many as 25% of Australian nurses and midwives speak a language other than English at home. Workers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can add value to workplaces and are a source of expertise in caring for people from diverse communities. Yet there are very few requirements on NSW employers to gather data on workforce cultural diversity. This makes it difficult to ascertain how well represented culturally and linguistically diverse nurses and midwives are in NSW healthcare settings. It also makes any monitoring of discriminatory practices, such as disproportionate career progression problematic.
It is not possible to source detailed, up to date data from ABS, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, or Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on diversity in the healthcare workforce. NSW healthcare providers have few reporting requirements placed upon them. It could be argued that lack of data makes the development of workplace support systems catering for the individual needs of nurses and midwives from culturally diverse backgrounds difficult to achieve. It also creates barriers to identification of racial bias in upward mobility and examples of structural racism.
Having accurate and timely data can assist organisations to translate cultural diversity in the workforce to the workplace and establish a benchmark as to how representative it is at all levels. For example, mapping the ABS data which points to 25% of NSW nurses and midwives speaking a language other than English at home to the same data in upper management structures in the workplace would provide a useful barometer as to how inclusivity is managed at organisation level.
An example of how such data could be used to benefit nurses and midwives can be found in the UK. Healthcare providers commissioned by the NHS are required to report on workforce equity annually against nine indicators of workforce race equality, including representation of workers from culturally diverse backgrounds at senior and board level. Each year a report on its progress is made to maintain focus. Whilst this is only one of many strategies useful to promote equity in the workplace. Having a system that requires reporting against key diversity targets might be a useful starting point for NSW healthcare providers.
You can find out more about the cultural safety gap in New South Wales in this report.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association or your local nursing or midwifery union.