Practitioners should be aware of their own race-based assumptions and the impacts these might have on CALD women who have experienced family violence. Practitioners should adopt a human rights-based approach to addressing family violence in CALD communities.

Violence is not endemic to culture or religion—there is no culture or religion that is “more violent” than another. As the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) notes, ‘violence against women is not caused by culture, but by men, in all communities, who make the unacceptable choice to be violent’[1].

In the context of family violence, ‘negative stereotyping creates personal barriers for women leaving violence and wider barriers to the willingness of communities to openly discuss and engage with the issue’[2]. Some women may be unwilling to seek support for family violence due to fear of racist assumptions about their culture, religion or ethnic background[3]. This places CALD women in a dangerous double bind.

In order to guard against racism, practitioners should avoid ‘attitudes that favour the Western way of life and implicitly judge others’ culture as “inferior” or “cruel”’[4]. Practitioners who do not share a cultural background with their client should demonstrate thoughtful curiosity about cultures and experiences different from their own.

At the same time, “this is how it is in my culture” should not be accepted as a reasonable excuse for the use of violence. Practitioners should reinforce human rights-based messages that violence is not a part of culture and its use can never be justified. All women, regardless of specific cultural contexts, have the right to live free from violence.

Self-reflection questions

  • What are my belief systems and values in relation to
    • Other cultures
    • Cultural beliefs
    • Cultural practices
  • What are my assumptions about the use of violence in the culture from which my client comes?
  • How do my values and beliefs influence my practice?

Self-reflection tool

Additional resources

Women Surviving Violence Cultural Competence in Critical Services (2013): this report discusses the additional barriers that CALD women face when accessing family violence justice and protection services. It defines cultural competence as a key element in addressing these barriers.

Window of opportunity: cultural misunderstanding (2014): this video explores techniques for working in a culturally competent way to ensure services are accessible.

Culture Handbook (2005): this handbook is designed to be used by advocates and professionals who work with those who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. It provides some basic information on how to understand culture and begin the process of challenging oneself to become more aware of the ways in which culture impacts our work and the lives of those who are victims.

Human rights framework quick audit: this Australian Muslim Women’s Human Rights Centre and 1800RESPECT checklist is a quick reference for organisations and practitioners to gauge their level of human rights practice


[1] Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (2013) Women Surviving Violence Cultural Competence in Critical Services. ECCV: Melbourne. p. 13.

[2] Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (2013) Women Surviving Violence Cultural Competence in Critical Services. ECCV: Melbourne. p. 13.

[3] ibid, p. 12.

[4] Allimant, A. and B. Ostapiej-Piatkowski (2011) ‘Supporting women from CALD backgrounds who are victims/survivors of sexual violence’ in ACASSA Wrap, No. 9. Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault: Melbourne. p. 7.