Cultural Competence Assessment for Organisations

The Cultural Competence Assessment for Organisations (CCAO) tool is designed to help community and health care organisations assess and improve their cultural competence. By improving cultural competence, organisations make their services more accessible and responsive to the needs of migrant and refugee communities, resulting in better client outcomes. They also create a more inclusive workplace, which fosters innovation and contributes to staff satisfaction.

The CCAO helps organisations recognise barriers that prevent vulnerable communities from being able to access and effectively use their services. Barriers are created when organisations plan and deliver services without taking ‘culture’ [1]  into account. The tool supports organisations to identify existing and potential barriers by asking them to reflect on their policies, procedures and practices in the following cultural competence domains:

  1. organisational values
  2. governance
  3. communication
  4. workforce development
  5. planning, monitoring and evaluation
  6. organisational infrastructure
  7. services and interventions
  8. community engagement

Through this process, the CCAO helps agencies identify strengths as well as gaps in their cultural competence. It shows them what they are currently doing well and what else they could be doing to be more responsive to the needs of different groups. The outcomes of the assessment can be used to make changes to policies, planning processes and service delivery to ensure that cultural diversity issues are a key consideration in all aspects of an organisation’s work.

Cultural Competence Assessment for Organisations

Click here to start the assessment

Each time you save and exit, you will be provided an email link to allow you to resume. This link will be valid for 30 days from the time you begin the assessment.

People from migrant and refugee backgrounds

The CCAO’s focus is on helping organisations reflect on how they respond to the needs of people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that over half of the population (51.1%) were born overseas or have at least one overseas-born parent. People with a recent migration background now make up the majority of the population and could be considered the new ‘mainstream.’ This highlights how important it is for organisations to have the capacity to work effectively with people from migrant and refugee backgrounds who have diverse cultures, languages and migration circumstances.

One of the challenges experienced by people from migrant and refugee backgrounds is the difficulty in accessing and effectively utilising services. This is due to a range of complex and interrelated factors such as: limited English language proficiency; poor health literacy; differences in values and cultural beliefs; settlement needs and pressures; and poor mental health. These variables affect how people find and understand information, their ability to advocate for their needs as well their responses to interventions.

Although there are differences in the extent to which migrant populations are affected by these variables, newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers are likely to be the most affected. People from these communities are often from non-English speaking countries, have experienced war, persecution and trauma, had disruptions to their education and employment and some have survived years in refugee camps with little or no access to health interventions. Research has found that people from refugee backgrounds are three times more likely to have a mental illness and twice as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder compared to people born in Australia [2].

Other groups that may experience difficulties include migrants with a long-established presence in Australia. Some of the more established communities still have cohorts with poor English language skills and different beliefs to the dominant culture who find it difficult to independently navigate the service system. More recently-arrived skilled and family stream migrants may also be experiencing difficulties adjusting to foreign systems and a new way of life. They might have limited social support networks, which can contribute to isolation and poor mental health.

Due to Australia’s significant and growing diversity, it is important for organisations to be aware of the types of needs and issues that can affect people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Having an awareness of the variables that affect access and service use will allow organisations to remove barriers in the way they plan and deliver services. Organisational barriers can include a lack of focus on diversity; unconscious bias; complex systems; and poor use of language services. Recognising and addressing these barriers will ensure that all communities can equitably access and effectively use services irrespective of culture, language or migration circumstances.

Factors that affect service access and use

Client-related variables affecting service access and use

Organisational barriers affecting service access and use

What is cultural competence?

Cultural competence is defined as:

‘…a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations’  [3]

Cultural competence needs to happen at both the worker level and the organisational level. At the worker level, workers need to embrace cultural diversity and have the knowledge and skills to effectively interact and communicate with individuals from migrant and refugee backgrounds. This requires them to appreciate different cultural perspectives and to recognise their own biases when working with clients.

At the organisational level, agencies need to have comprehensive policies, procedures and practices that address organisational barriers to service access and use. In this context, cultural diversity needs to be considered in all aspects of an organisation’s work, ranging from needs analyses and program planning to service delivery. In other words, organisations need to make ‘culture’ core business, not an add-on or an additional requirement to be met.

Organisations that are committed to cultural competence:

  • see cultural diversity as an asset;
  • include diverse voices in their decision-making;
  • invest in resources to make sure the needs of different groups are met;
  • have a skilled workforce capable of working with diverse groups;
  • focus on building relationships with local communities; and
  • are flexible and capable of adapting to the changing needs of their clients.

When organisations invest in cultural  competence, they can improve both access to their services and the quality and effectiveness of those services. This contributes to improved client experiences and outcomes and greater staff satisfaction.

Cultural competence is a dynamic and on-going  process, not an end point. It requires a commitment to ongoing learning and reflection.

Benefits of improving cultural competence

  • more accessible services and greater reach
  • inclusive decision-making and planning
  • increased engagement with clients and local communities
  • a more diverse workforce leading to increased innovation and greater employee retention and satisfaction
  • less workplace discrimination and harassment
  • evidence for accreditation and reporting requirements on cultural diversity
  • a raised organisational profile
  • more equitable and responsive services leading to better client outcomes


Who should complete the CCAO?

The CCAO is designed to be completed by a person within your organisation with oversight and/or awareness of policies, procedures, planning processes and systems such as a senior manager. In order to effectively conduct the CCAO, the responsible person should consult with a number of staff that represent key functions or departments within the organisation – for example, board members, other senior managers, administration and finance staff, human resources personnel and practitioners from disciplines such as social work. They should also liaise with any staff member(s) whose job is directly concerned with cultural issues such as a diversity coordinator as well as client or community representatives. This should provide a variety of perspectives from different areas of the organisation and the community.

It is also suggested the responsible person communicates with staff, volunteers and clients about the assessment and outcomes. This will send a message that the organisation values cultural competence and is inclusive in its approach.

Completing the assessment

The CCAO consists of eight domains, which include a number of indicators that are designed to assess your organisation’s level of cultural competence. For each indicator, you will be asked to select an option that best represents what your organisation currently does or does not do.

The options are:

  • very much
  • somewhat
  • a little
  • not at all/do not know

You can also add information in the comments section to describe how you are demonstrating the requirements of the indicator as well as any links to supporting documentation (e.g. strategic plans, policies and procedures) that show evidence for this.

If you selected ‘not at all’/‘do not know,’ you can include the steps you plan to take in the future to meet the requirements of the indicator as well as who will be responsible for any actions.

The scores and comments sections can be used to develop an action plan.