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Volume 17, Number 1 2015


the most common in South Australia and the Northern

Territory, Vietnamese in Western Australia and Samoan

in Queensland. The language spoken may also differ

from suburb to suburb within the same city. For example,

in 2011 Chinese-born migrants living in Sydney were

concentrated in Hurstville, Rhodes, Burwood, and Allawah,

while migrants born in India were concentrated in Harris

Park, Westmead and Parramatta (ABS, 2014).

The evidence regarding linguistic diversity reported

above reflects the general Australian context, and has

clear implications for the profession. Evidence regarding

the representation (in terms of percentage of caseload) of

clients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

is not readily available, but evidence that this client group is

of concern to the profession is to be found in publications

in SPA journals. Volume 13(3) of

ACQuiring Knowledge in

Speech, Language and Hearing

took cultural diversity as its

theme, and attracted papers and clinical insights across a

range of areas. With the exception of one article (Stewart,

2011) and one column (Bowen, 2011), all address issues

surrounding working with children. Working with adults

from diverse cultural backgrounds also presents challenges

to the profession, challenges which Australian speech

pathologists do not feel highly confident of meeting (Rose,

Ferguson, Power, Togher, & Worrall, 2014).

Diversity in the future

The range, contexts and purposes of practice of speech

pathology seem likely to continue to diversify, not only

within Australia, but worldwide. New technologies open

new possibilities for service delivery and intervention

approaches (see, for example, Finch, Clark, & Hill, 2013;

Ward & Burns, 2012), thus diversifying the practice of

speech pathology. The emerging development of the

profession in other countries (see, for example, McAllister et

al., 2013) will increase diversity in the international

professional workforce, in the clients who will benefit from

services, and in the contexts in which speech pathology

services are offered. As ASHA states, “Speech-language

pathology is a dynamic and continuously developing

profession” (2007, p. 2). Who can predict the extent of the

diversity we will see in our dynamic and developing

profession in fifty years’ time?


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)


Scope of practice in speech-language pathology



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2006).


composition: Languages spoken in Australia

. Retrieved




Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2012a). 2011

census shows Asian languages on the rise in Australian

households. Retrieved from


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2012b). Cultural

diversity in Australia.

Reflecting a nation: Stories from

the 2011 census

. Retrieved from



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2013).


“average” Australian

. Retrieved from



Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the USA have increased in

the period between 2001 and 2010. The majority (85%) live

in major cities. Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth have the

highest migrant population. The ABS report

Where Do

Migrants Live

provides detailed information on the

percentage of migrants living in particular areas of those

cities (ABS, 2014). Despite this diversity, the 2011 census

reveals that the majority of Australians (74%) were born in

Australia, and both parents of 54% were also born in

Australia (ABS, 2013).

The relatively large migrant population is associated

with linguistic as well as cultural diversity. More than 300

languages are reported to be spoken in Australia (ABS,

2012a). The most common language spoken in Australian

homes is, perhaps unsurprisingly, English. Some 81%

of the respondents in the census of 2011 reported that

they spoke only English at home. Two percent spoke no

English. The most common language other than English

(LOTE) reported was Mandarin. Other frequently reported

languages included Italian, Arabic, Greek and Vietnamese

(ABS, 2013; ABS, 2012b). The most common LOTEs

spoken in the home vary with immigration patterns and

across age groups. Changes in immigration patterns

introduce new languages to the range spoken in Australia,

and alter the proportion of speakers recorded for individual

languages. These changes are seen in differing demand

for services within the community. For example, the

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2012) reports

increased demand for interpreting services in Persian, Tamil,

and Hazaragi (a dialect of Persian spoken in Afghanistan)

in 2010–11. Migrants who have recently arrived in Australia

are more likely to speak a LOTE in the home than are

those who have been in the country for longer (67% of

recent arrivals, 49% of more longstanding residents),

and maintenance of the LOTE reduces dramatically with

increasing length of residence – from 53% for the first

generation to 20% in the second and 1.6% in the third

(ABS, 2012b).

The most common LOTEs spoken by children differ

from those reported in the census. McLeod (2011) reports

data extracted from the Longitudinal Study of Australian

Children which shows that, in a sample of 4,983 4–5-year-

old children, the most commonly spoken LOTE was Arabic,

which was only the fourth most common reported in the

census. Data from the same study also indicates that

the percentage of children reported to speak a language

other than English is lower than the percentage reported

in the census, and differs by age. At the first time of

sampling, when children were up to 1 year of age, 9.1%

were reported to use a LOTE. This increased to 15.7% at

time two (2–3 years) and 15.2% at time three (4–5 years).

The percentage of children who maintained use of a

LOTE between time two and time three was high (Verdon,

McLeod, & Winsler, 2014).

The proportion of people speaking a language other than

English differs by state. Data collected in the 1996 census

showed the highest proportion is found in the Northern

Territory (24.5%; reflecting the indigenous population)

and lowest in Tasmania (3.4%). The proportion in Victoria

is 20.7%, New South Wales 18.7%, ACT 14.1%, South

Australia 12.6%, Western Australia 11.8%, and Queensland

7.1% (ABS, 2006). The proportion of particular languages

spoken has also been shown to vary by state. For example,

McLeod (2011) reports that, in the sample of children

investigated, Arabic was the most common language

spoken in New South Wales and Victoria. Greek was