SBS research shows room for improvement

28 August, 2008 by IF

[Release from SBS]

Data released today by SBS shows that cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia is becoming more complex increasing the need for new and improved services to help new arrivals in Australia as well as established communities.


An analysis of data from the 2006 National Census and the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ General Social Survey conducted by SBS shows that the needs of established communities are changing while new and emerging communities are creating demand for new services.

“As Australia’s multicultural and multilingual broadcaster, SBS exists to provide vital communications services for culturally and linguistically diverse communities as well to provide programs and services that help reflect the true multicultural Australia, to all Australians,” SBS Managing Director Shaun Brown said.

“With no real increase in funding in more than a decade SBS is not able to keep pace with changes in contemporary multicultural Australia and demands from consumers for new services, online and on-demand.

“SBS has plans to expand its television, radio and online services to help meet the increasingly complex language and content needs of the Australian community. But we need the funds and the means to do so. Without an injection of funds, Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities will pay the price.

“With an increase in funding in next year’s Federal Budget, SBS could expand its range of sub-titled and Australian content, access more foreign language news services for our World Watch program and increase the number of radio channels to nine to better service existing language communities and include new languages in our radio line-up.

“An inclusive and cohesive society cannot be left to chance and a more complex multicultural society creates new pressures for services, particularly from SBS. Social inclusion requires adequate services that enable Australians of all backgrounds to participate in public life and benefit from the opportunities Australian society offers.

“Providing for community need has always been a crucial role for SBS and we must continue to find means of delivering communications services that are relevant to the needs of Australia’s diverse population. This data will help SBS make the case to the Australian Government for adequate funding so we can deliver more and better services to the Australian community.”

The key findings of the SBS research released today include:

Engaging with multicultural society in Australia cannot rely on generalisations about different communities and their needs. Language communities in Australia include significant diversity on a variety of levels including ancestry, faith, culture and lifestyle. These factors interrelate and make the cultural diversity experience in Australia unique and complex.

The study explored levels of household resources and trends in age as well as isolation and levels of language proficiency in communities in defining need.

Groups with lower English language proficiency tend to participate less in civic, social or political life. These communities tend to have greater difficulty accessing services. 

The groups with the lowest English language proficiency per capita in Australia include Vietnamese and Dinka, Hmong, and Korean. 

Some communities have substantial ageing populations including Greek and Italian communities and some smaller groups such as the Dutch, Lithuanian Latvian and Ukrainian speaking communities. This raises the issue of new needs for established communities as anecdotal evidence shows these Australians revert to their mother tongue in old age and renew their need for in-language support. 

The ABS survey also found that communities with lower household resources have a greater need for government services and more issues in gaining access to the services they need. These communities are far less likely to have access to satellite or pay television services in their preferred languages. The groups with lowest household resources include Indigenous languages (notably Murrinh Patha, Tiwi, Djambarrpuyngu, Alyawarr and Luritja) and Dinka, Kurdish, Dari, Hmong, Pashto, Assyrian, Amharic and Arabic.

Communities with the highest levels of community dispersal throughout Australia [For example: Indigenous languages and Torres Strait Creole speakers] also find it harder to access specialist services and may be isolated from the broader community. National services, therefore, become increasingly important to these sectors of the population.

SBS’s Plans for the Future document is available at








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