Language line supports health literacy, services access for migrant communities

Language line supports health literacy, services access for migrant communities

A National Language Line launched this year by Bolton Clarke is supporting better access to services for Australia’s older migrant population.

Bolton Clarke Diversity Manager Jaklina Michael said the organisation supports clients from 168 countries who speak more than 133 languages.

Language barriers can compound barriers to accessing services caused by other diversity characteristics or cultural barriers.

Ms Michael said Bolton Clarke (formerly RSL Care + RDNS) had operated under a cultural diversity framework since 2000, and continued to work with consumer groups to find new ways to improve health literacy and access across communities. The organisation is preparing to release its 2017-2020 framework. 

“The majority of people in Australia (six out of 10) have low health literacy and have difficulty understanding, accessing and using health information as well as navigating the health system,” she said.

“This is compounded for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including people from migrant communities.

“It is increasingly evident that our community consists of people with multiple diversity characteristics that affect equity of service access and care.”

Bolton Clarke introduced its first language line in Melbourne in 2006 and a decade later launched its national line, which now receives calls from across Australia.

Callers can access aged care information in their own language 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the help of a telephone interpreter.

Dedicated lines are available for speakers of Arabic, Cantonese, Croatian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Mandarin, Polish, Russian and Vietnamese, with callers greeted in their own language.

Australians speak over 300 different languages. An “other languages” line directs to an English-speaking operator who will ask which language interpreter is needed and address the call accordingly.

Bolton Clarke has also produced a range of downloadable talking books including Information on Diabetes in Italian, Greek, Vietnamese and Macedonian and Information on Dementia in Vietnamese.

The latest resource in the series is a multi-media Information on Medicines in English tool developed in consultation with people from indigenous and CALD communities.

For more information and numbers for Bolton Clarke’s National Language Line go to

December 18 is International Migrants Day.

Bolton Clarke's National Language Line supports migrant Australians in accessing aged care information in their own language

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