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.

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.  

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 first step of the CDCF process is the implementation of the Positive Organisation Review Tool (PORT) within organisations. The PORT provides organisations with a self-assessment process to start the thinking about: 

  1. Planning for a diverse client base
  2. Creating mechanisms for ongoing, sustained, community and consumer engagement
  3. Building organisational and service capacity including, but beyond champions
  4. Creating supportive management strategy including goals, plans, policies, procedures and quality control
  5. Promoting and supporting attitudes, behaviours, knowledge and skills necessary for staff to work effectively with clients and each other
  6. Creating active recruitment and retention strategies for skilled staff

The PORT will lead you through a series of questions around ten key topic areas. There are no right or wrong answers. The Framework 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.

Cultural Diversity Competency Framework


The Cultural Diversity Competency Framework, and the associated Positive Organisational Review Tool, is centred around the following 10 key elements of organisational cultural competence:


Strategic planning means understanding who your current clients groups are, who they could be, and how they are located. In this section we will ask you reflect on how much information you currently have on the populations surrounding and utilising your services, what additional information you might need and most importantly, why.


Place is about the location of your organisation, but it is much more than that as well. It is about both how your organisation reflects and responds to your surrounding communities, and how it represents the diversity of those communities in its appearance, accessibility and overall design.


The provision of all services is about relationships, relationships between clients and providers, between staff and managers, and about leadership as a whole. Person centred practice is also known as relationship centred practice, and for good reason. Understanding how best to deliver a service to an individual or group must be based on a clear understanding of the skills and capabilities of the people who provide that service. 


Disability services more than any other sector is aware of the importance of values to the way in which organisations approach their work. In this section we will ask you to reflect on the alignment of your organisations’ values and the day to day practice of staff at every level.


Policy is one of the great levers for organisational change and improvement. It sets out publicly the commitments and expectations of the organisation, and enables both internal and external stakeholders to assess just how successful the organisation is in meeting those commitments.


Recognition of diversity – both within the organisations’ staff and their existing and potential client groups, provides the framework for achieving and assessing the best possible outcomes for all parties involved. The CDCF enables organisations to start to integrate diversity goals from the start of each planning cycle, and to assess and celebrate achievements and outcomes, including increased client and staff satisfaction and retention.


Organisations are about their people. Recruiting and retaining the best possible staff requires a clear understanding and an established process for acknowledging the capabilities of individuals and assistance for their continued development.


Clients experience organisations through their day to day interactions with staff. This interaction can be understood as the daily practice of professionals, staff, managers, leaders and volunteers. In this section we will ask you to reflect on your current practices in relation to your existing and potential client groups.


While not all organisations have programs, most have organised their delivery around key points. In this section we will ask you to consider how closely your programs match your current or potential client groups, and what you could do to improve that alignment.


All organisations have tangible outputs from their work, whether these are brochures, websites or other products. Whether these reflect or represent the communities they do or could service has significant, but often hidden, implications in terms of client outcomes and satisfaction.