CareSouth staff and carers support cultural diversity

Christmas means many different things to many different people. In Japan, where just one per cent of the population is Christian, Christmas is not a gazetted holiday, but some Christmas traditions are observed. Instead of a turkey dinner, families head to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken, a ritual that began in 1974 as part of a successful marketing campaign called Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii! (Kentucky for Christmas!).

Iceland celebrates the 13 days of Christmas instead of the 12 as we do here in Australia. Each night, Icelandic children place their shoes by the window, and in the morning, they’ll either get lollies (if they’re good) or shoes full of rotten potatoes (if they’re not).

Every family and every culture has a unique way of celebrating holidays. Food, family, presents and tradition all feature heavily for those that celebrate Christmas. And CareSouth foster carers are no different. While they have their own family traditions, they adapt and adopt customs and rituals that are also important to those they support.

This is particularly important for children and young people in foster care who don’t celebrate or acknowledge Christmas.

One of the families supported by CareSouth’s Deniliquin team is Nepalese and doesn’t celebrate or acknowledge the western holidays of Christmas, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day.    

Deniliquin Carer Recruitment Caseworker Guy Hussey has worked intensively with the carers, alongside the children’s caseworker Claire Cowley, to ensure the family’s cultural needs are met, and that staff in the western region have a good understanding of the rituals and customs observed by the family.


“We have changed the title of our annual Christmas party for kids and carers to Festive Celebrations, out of respect for the Nepalese family,” said Guy. “CareSouth also supports the children’s carers and the children’s parents to celebrate important religious festivals in the local community where they live. Access to culture, from the perspective of the children, their family and their carers, is paramount, and we listened to the family’s needs to ensure that they remained immersed in that culture.”


Just recently, the Deniliquin team facilitated a family contact visit to celebrate the Dashain Festival, one of the biggest celebrations on the Nepalese cultural calendar. Dashain celebrates happiness and is a time for family reunions and the exchange of gifts and blessings.


“The children’s parents and their carers were able to come together and adorn their foreheads with ‘tika’ (a mix of rice, yogurt and red food colouring), as is customary in their culture,” said Guy. “It was a very important moment and a time for celebration of family and culture.”


Guy says staff have enthusiastically embraced the cultural learning opportunities that come with supporting a family from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. CareSouth has worked closely with a Nepalese Department of Communities and Justice worker, who has acted as an interpreter for all mandatory foster care training requirements, to ensure that the carers receive all the support they need.

“Our role as caseworkers is to provide meaningful engagement, and to make sure everyone we work with has equal opportunities and access to training and support,” says Guy.


The importance of holidays and traditions spans across most cultures and celebrating events unique to a child or young person’s cultural background helps build an understanding that their personal traditions may be different from others.

CareSouth Clinical Services Manager Christine Gregory says it’s important to talk to children and young people about the way those from different cultures celebrate important events.

“Cultural awareness and tradition play important roles in helping young children develop a positive sense of identity and build self-esteem,” said Christine. “If you’ve ever tried to make changes to your family’s long-standing Christmas plans, you will realise just how important these traditions can be to people. Imagine then how hard it is for kids coming into our homes and missing all of their family traditions.  

“It’s important for children and young people to know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays or has the same beliefs. And there’s no better time to discuss this than around Christmas, which is all about acceptance and coming together as a family and community.”

If you have any questions about cultural and family traditions for the children and young people you support, your caseworker and the wider CareSouth team are here to help.