Recognition of the diversity of human beings and their experiences and the complexity that diversity brings to human interactions is, and always has been, a constant in the provision of high quality services. The Cultural Diversity Competency Framework (CDCF) recognises this and provides the foundation for a new approach to diversity within disability organisations.


Cultural Diversity Competency Framework (Word version)

The following section introduces the Cultural Diversity Competency Framework (CDCF), which provides a background and rationale for the various tools on this website, and a context for using the various tools in your organisation.

1. A new approach to diversity within disability

Service providers’ ability to embrace and respond to diversity can be seen as a measure of their organisational capacity, capabilities and competence as a whole. 

The effective provision of support to people with disabilities depends on organisations’ and individuals’ responsiveness to clients with complex conditions and situations. In modern management “speak” this depends on an organisation’s agility and resilience. These characteristics rely in turn on the service’s culture, understood increasingly as those day to day discussions that put values into action.

The Cultural Diversity Competency Framework (CDCF) provides the foundation for a new approach to diversity within disability organisations. The CDCF begins not with a blank slate, but from a position of acknowledgement and recognition of the strengths, vision and commitment that the disability sector already has in place to individuals and groups with a diverse range of experiences and expectations.  

2. The business case for diversity

The CDCF draws together and explores areas of common concern for providers, clients and communities, by employing an holistic approach which includes an understanding of how population (macro), community and service (meso) and individual (micro) needs shape the delivery, use and outcomes of services. It is based on the latest research and best evidence on quality improvement and change management, but for a very practical purpose, that is to assist clients and providers in working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for all those involved

The CDCF outlines research that suggests that organisations with a strong commitment to diversity (that is, one which is embedded in the corporate culture) outperform their peers, and this commitment can make a positive contribution to:

  • the organisational climate
  • work group performance
  • job satisfaction
  • workplace learning 
  • the creation of new markets 
  • increase market share and competitive advantage 
  • greater relative profits
...organisations with a strong commitment to diversity (that is, one which is embedded in the corporate culture) outperform their peers

3. Benefits of using the CDCF

For clients

The CDCF will provide a recognition that they are seen and responded to as an individual within the context of the communities, that their concerns are acknowledged and recognised, that the service takes these concerns seriously, and treats them with respect.

For staff

The CDCF recognises the complexity of their work, values their full range of competencies, encourages and supports them to develop new or building on existing competencies and experience, and gives them the opportunity to identify, improve and innovate their and their organisation’s work.

For disability services

Disability services will benefit from the CDCF by ensuring that: they have a reputation for providing the best possible care to all clients; that they have an evidence-based understanding of clients, communities and staff needs and expectations; that they build a culture of innovation and continuous quality improvement in clients’ experience of care; and that they build their organisational capacity for resilience, responsiveness and sustained innovation and change.

4. What needs to change?

Three things need to change if the CDCF is to be fully implemented: practice, culture and discourse.


An organisation that wishes to adopt the CDCF needs to consider a flexible approach to service delivery.

Cultural competence demands that clinicians and workers develop flexibility in thinking and behaviour, because they must learn to adapt professional tasks and work styles to the values, expectations, and preferences of specific clients. This means that practitioners must choose from a variety of strategies that are useful for the range of cultural groups and social classes, levels of education, and levels of acculturation that exist among clients.


Organisational culture is evident in organisational structures, policies, and even its physical environment, all of which are included in the CDCF. Organizational culture has to be open enough and supportive enough to allow for the integration of the CDCF, which in turn needs to help shape the culture of the organisation so that responsiveness to CALD communities is viewed simply as part of the daily routine. As Truong et al (2014, p.14) note:

Embedding cultural competency in organisational policy documents such as position statements and strategic plans are more likely to result in sustained change within organisations. There should be a commitment among the leadership of the organisation and embedded key performance indicators supported by allocated resources.


Discourse is a shorthand term for a complex way of understanding how human beings communicate and what meaning and power relationships are situated within and through the use of that communication. Discourses are the sum total of how organisations and their staff, speak about, write about, represent (in image as well as in words), and respond to clients and staff.

It is as much about what is not visible or spoken about (including difficult topics like racism and discrimination, which can apply to both clients and staff) as about what is.

While disability services have a long history of inclusive approaches and inclusive language towards people with disabilities, this has not always translated to responsiveness for people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The CDCF has been designed and will provide assistance with this transition.

5. Change processes and tools

What ties together the above three elements – practice, culture and discourse – is leadership. A commitment to the CDCF requires a commitment to transformative and distributed leadership across the organisation.  

And leading any change requires a sustainable approach to responding to the needs of all existing and potential clients. The CDCF change model (see image below) has been tested in the field and provides a change model that can be adopted by your service.

It utilises an appreciative inquiry and resilience approach (work out what we are doing well, strengthen those elements, and then address areas of improvement) combined with practice development and communities of practice (providing support for services and staff in a self-sustaining manner).

 Image: CDCF change process

Image: CDCF change process

This Diversity in Disability digital resource introduces some of those tools and materials to support that change journey:

5.1 Positive Organisational Review Tool

The Positive Organisational Review Tool (PORT) is part of the Cultural Diversity Competency Framework (CDCF) and is about assessing where you are, where you could be, and how to get there. The outcome will be a personalised profile of your organisation, its strengths and weaknesses in relation to cultural diversity issues, and more importantly insights into how to increase your responsiveness to clients – and staff, of all backgrounds.  

Find out more about the PORT here >

5.2 Organisational development and leadership

As a leader, how well equipped are you to respond to cultural diversity? And how well equipped are you and your organisation to respond to cultural diversity and do you have the capacity and competence to be responsive to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with disability?  The resources on Leadership for Cultural Diversity provide Self reflection for leadership that considers aspects of your knowledge, skills, attitudes and planning to lead for diversity.  

Find out more about the Leadership for Cultural Diversity resources here >

5.3 Essential tools for workforce development

The CDCF approach to workforce development requires the identification of the current levels of cultural competence within and across all staff – professional, administrative and ancillary, followed by the development of these competencies to their optimum levels through training, education and a range of professional development activities.  The Essential Tools for Workforce Development provide a basis for that and are designed to be thought provoking and encourage your team’s discussion on how to:

  • Build support and a business case for workplace diversity
  • Get your organisation ready for cultural diversity
  • Hire and leverage your talent pipeline for diversity
  • Support your staff to build trust and rapport with CALD communities

Find out more about the Essential Tools for Workforce Development resources here >

5.4 Evidence based practice

The CDCF focuses on two types of evidence based practice (EBP). The first is the use of the latest available research to support the development of the Framework and its associated tools. This means evidence from cultural competency and diversity research, but also includes the latest evidence on organisational change and innovation, client centred and directed care, disability and diversity studies, and professional and staff development.

At a second, more pragmatic but equally important level, the CDCF will assist organisations to assess the types and level of evidence they wish to collect from within their own organisations. These including questions about data (raw numbers), information (contextualised data) and knowledge (actionable information) including:

  • What kinds of data, information and knowledge to collect?
  • How to capture data, information and knowledge?
  • How to manage data, information and knowledge?
  • What to do with data, information and knowledge?
  • Where to go for additional data and information?
  • How to identify legitimate and useful data, information and knowledge?
  • What client data to collect?

You can find more information about EBP throughout the CDCF. Download the Cultural Diversity Competency Framework (Word version)

5.5 Partnering and engaging with CALD communities and carers

At the heart of the CDCF is the principle of a relational mode of operating. This means recognising and responding to clients within their familial and community contexts.

The Engaging CALD Communities and Carers tools are a first step in helping you understand key issues around engaging with carers and communities rom CALD backgrounds.  The tools cover: 

  • Understanding CALD Carers
  • Carer Issues in Person Centred Care
  • Reaching & Engaging with CALD Carers
  • Thinking about Stigma, disability and CALD communities
  • Building networks and partnerships
  • Engaging new and emerging communities
  • CALD community input in program planning (a co-design approach)

Find out more about the Engaging CALD Communities and Carers resource here >

5.6 Evaluation and innovation

The CDCF is based on the principle that even small changes can result in big improvements for services. In order for these improvements to be sustained, disability organisations need to commit to a process of continuous quality improvement (CQI). Numerous models of CQI exist, including the CDCF, which by its circular nature demands a constant review and evaluation of client and organisational outcomes.

Communities of practice and practice development theory

The creation of communities of practice and the use of practice development theory, which is widely utilised to create cycles of practitioner directed innovation and evaluation, and which has been used extensively in the support of client centred care, are both strategies which align with the philosophy and practice of the CDCF approach.

Action learning sets

Closely aligned to the practice development approach is the use of action learning sets. Action learning establishes a team or ‘set’ of practitioners who work with a facilitator or coach to identify a problem that is important, critical and complex and then examine it from a place of inquiry and reflection.

Innovation and customisation

You can also customise some competencies, and associated strategies outlined in the CDCF on the basis of, for example, the: type and function the service itself (where it is along the spectrum of CDC ‘maturity’, the type of services it provides, it’s context (size, location, number of workers etc.); type of disability/disabilities for which the service caters; and the characteristics (e.g. age) of clients. In addition to these variables, the needs of specific groups, such as refugees and asylum seekers, people with dual disabilities, or isolated individuals (for example prisoners, CALD individuals in rural and remote settings) may need to be addressed

6. An opportunity to make a difference

The opportunity to address diversity issues is now when major change has opened about established attitudes and approaches to disability service design and definitions. The changing demography of Australian society is being acknowledged by disability sector organisations and the next step is to build the capacity of organisations to take these steps.

The aim of this CDCF is to provide a platform for building the competency of the sector from top to bottom by ensuring CALD issues can be integrated into existing organisational tasks and goals.

The CDCF and its associated resources will help you to think about how you can start to make a difference with creating a more inclusive future for people with disabilities from CALD backgrounds; and how you can bring your organisation, and its people, along for the journey.