We don’t all speak the same language in Australia. We come from many different countries and cultures. But the transition from childhood to adulthood is important the world over.

Many Australian families find it difficult to steer their way through the turbulent teenage years, but the journey is much more difficult when language, cultural heritage and contrasting social expectations place additional pressures on relationships within the family. 

The ABCD program has always aimed to be culturally relevant and available for a range of communities in Victoria’s multicultural population, with parent resources translated into five community languages. The Parenting Research Centre (PRC) has recently adapted and translated the program into Chinese and Somali and has also begun consultation with the Sudanese community.

Our aim is to meet the specific needs of Sudanese, Somali and Chinese communities by translating the ABCD program into their own language, and ultimately by having the program delivered by members of their own community.

Developing the programs: 4 stage process

Each translation is developed in a four-stage process:
1.    Community consultation
2.    Translation of materials
3.    Pilot delivery of the program
4.    Evaluation of the program

At each stage, PRC liaises closely with the community, including checking and verification of all translated materials, consultation to ensure cultural and social suitability of all materials, and extensive support of all facilitators and translators.

Margaret Yung trained with the PRC to be a facilitator for the ABCD program. Recognising its relevance for the Chinese community, she approached PRC to adapt and translate the program. Yung recognised that many Chinese parents would find it easier to communicate and to express their opinions using their first language.

As a trained social worker, Yung values the fact that the ABCD program focuses on parents. She suggests that as problems start to arise, parents need to realise that change is necessary: “You need to change something or you have to change your thinking. You may need to change your behaviour rather than think: It’s all my children’s problem”.

Participants in the Chinese pilot project came from Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. Yung describes the Chinese community as having a strong emphasis on studying and achieving high academic results, which can upset or frustrate some children. At the same time, parents have a more authoritarian role than in many Australian families.

“In the Chinese community, we all say that we are the boss, listen to me. No way can you talk back. I think they (ABCD facilitators) help the parents understand that Chinese children are individuals; they have lots of different potentials. If they can’t do academic work, they can look at different ways to develop their potential.”

Chinese and Somali pilot programs ran in local community centres following advertising in local newspapers and ethnic media. There were ongoing opportunities for feedback to ensure relevant issues and problems could be addressed, and modifications made in future programs.
Since the mid 1990s many Somali families have come to Australia, sometimes with a background of traumatic refugee experiences and a very different concept of cultural and family expectations from those in Australia.

The Somali and Sudanese projects arose in response to the types of issues facing these emerging community and refugee groups. The programs aim to assist families to better assimilate into this new culture, maintain family bonds and reduce risk-taking behaviour in their youth.

The Arabic ABCD material is currently being updated and will be made available to the Sudanese community.
As each ABCD project is translated into a particular language, community consultation is critical to ensure sensitivity to the cultural issues and traditions.

The Somali program, as an example was delivered separately to fathers and mothers in order to meet cultural and social community needs. However Sudanese mothers and fathers will attend sessions together.
There are also plans to develop the ABCD program and resources for participants who have low levels of literacy, a factor in some refugee communities.

Program successes and challenges

Feedback from the Chinese and Somali participants was very positive. The programs were presented by community members who were sensitive to cultural issues and understood community concerns.

Parents found it easier to discuss issues of concern with their adolescents. Families were better able to achieve a balance between the challenges of the adolescent experience and creating links with the Australian culture, while maintaining the most important aspects of their traditional culture.

Results from the pilot program with the Somali community also suggest that there were reductions in the number of disagreements with parents and their adolescent children.

Participants in the ABCD Chinese program reported high levels of satisfaction with the program, and improvements in their levels of satisfaction and effectiveness as a parent.

While it must be said that developing translated materials is a challenging component, it’s important to provide evidence-based parenting programs that are culturally relevant such as the ABCD program. Kylie Burke, ABCD Projects Manager, says: “We need to have a proper understanding of cultural and community norms and values; this includes things like perceptions about time or arrival requirements or views on the value of evaluations.”

The ABCD program, with its range of translated materials delivered by practitioners within the community, enables parents and community groups to support one another and their young people.

Finding facilitators with knowledge of the language can be difficult. Ideally, ABCD facilitators have health or welfare backgrounds, but unfortunately, this was not possible for the Somali project. Therefore, the Somali facilitators invited English speaking facilitators to support them using both Somali and English, with the eventual aim of Somali facilitators delivering the program independently.

 “Individuals socialise together and give parenting support to each other within their cultural community. Many families from refugee or newly arrived communities do not access mainstream services; often feeling most comfortable with members of their own community, where they can share similar backgrounds, experiences and values. They can share their advice with each other, their ideas and strategies.”

The Parenting Research Centre is committed to continuing to develop and extend the ABCD program within the Sudanese, Somali and Chinese communities.

Issues facing refugee families
What happens when resettlement in a new country has disrupted any sense of normality for family life, possibly after years in a refugee camp?

How does a family cope when neither parent speaks English, and children have to translate constantly for their parents?

Many refugee and newly settled families describe feelings of helplessness and decreased parenting confidence as the find their way in a new country. Traditional roles and values are turned upside-down as families try to assimilate into an often alien culture.

Other issues of concern include:
•    changes to family power structures
•    a perceived lack of respect for parents
•    changes to parents’ disciplinary practices
•    unclear traditional roles for mother and father
•    lack of support for mothers
•    different issues from “back home”, including the media, alcohol, drugs, homosexuality
•    staying connected to their culture and religious values.

Having community members deliver the program in their common language helps families address these social and cultural issues as well as the challenges of adolescence.

Adolescent risk behaviours are typical for any community. However, when the young people also face further major issues because of recent immigration, families need extra support to avoid serious distress.



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ABCD Program

Resources in your language

A selection of topics from ABCD parenting resources have been translated into the following languages:

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