Embracing Diversity, Creating Equality: Supporting the Speech, Language and Communication of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Effective communication is essential for social engagement, educational attainment, and workforce participation. Australia, like many other English-dominant nations is becoming increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse. Therefore an understanding of this diversity is essential for planning services to support all Australian children to become competent and effective communicators in ways that are responsive to their cultural and linguistic background. Yet, little is known about Australian children''s linguistic diversity and how their multilingual speech, language, and communication development can be supported. This doctoral thesis describes the findings of a mixed methods study conducted in two parts and presented as a series of nine publications drawn together through an exegesis. Part 1 (Papers 1 - 4) examines cultural and linguistic diversity and language maintenance among Australian children, as well as the speech-language pathology services available to support them. Drawing on longitudinal quantitative data from the 5,107 children included in the nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) and 580 children from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC), the findings of Part 1 indicated that approximately 15.3% of Australian children did not speak English at the age of formal school commencement, in a context where English is the language of instruction in schools. Additionally, 19.3% of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children spoke an Indigenous language and 43.1% were reported to speak Aboriginal Australian English. Factors associated with home language maintenance among young Australian multilingual children included parental use of the language at home, the number of generations since migration, type of childcare, and the level of support and understanding from teachers and educational environments. Using geographical mapping analysis, a mismatch was identified between the languages spoken by a subset of 4,386 Australian children from LSAC, and the languages and locations in which support for children's speech, language, and communication were offered by 2,849 Australian speech-language pathology services.Part 2 (Papers 5 - 9) of this research identifies ways that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can support culturally and linguistically diverse children's speech, language, and communication development throughout the world. First, aspirations and recommendations for supporting children's speech, language, and communication needs were identified by drawing upon international expert opinion. Second, the actualisation (or otherwise) of these aspirations and recommendations in the reality of international practice was examined through the Embracing Diversity - Creating Equality Study. This study involved ethnographic observation of professional practice in 14 international sites in Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, and the US, that were identified as working with culturally and linguistically diverse populations. The data from Part 2 were analysed using Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT, Engeström, 1987), a heuristic framework that made visible the reality and complexities of professional practice. From these analyses six overarching principles for guiding practice with culturally and linguistically diverse children were identified: (1) identification of culturally appropriate and mutually motivating therapy goals, (2) knowledge of languages and culture, (3) use of culturally appropriate resources, (4) consideration of the cultural, social and political context, (5) consultation with families and communities, and (6) collaboration with other professionals. The findings identify opportunities for professionals to enhance the cultural competence of their own practice and to become advocates for change to practice with culturally and linguistically diverse children.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • McLeod, Sharynne, Co-Supervisor
Award date29 Oct 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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