Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 436–446 | Cite as

Challenges Faced by Genetics Service Providers’ Practicing in a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Population: An Australian Experience

  • Mona Saleh
  • Kristine Barlow-Stewart
  • Bettina Meiser
  • Ian Muchamore
Original Research


This paper explores the perceived challenges facing clinical genetics practitioners in multicultural Australia. Focus groups conducted with 53 practitioners explored: 1) participants’ experiences and definitions of cultural diversity; 2) their use of educational resources with clients; 3) their experiences with culturally diverse groups/individuals in practice; 4) their experiences working with interpreters; and 5) the impact culturally specific educational training and/or experiential learning had on their confidence or practice when dealing with culturally diverse clients. Participants viewed culture as extending beyond traditional definitions such as ethnicity, language and religion. Most respondents had experienced positive results working with health care interpreters, although at times, this was a challenge for the family as they preferred privacy and the use of family members as interpreters. Another commonly reported challenge was the limited availability of reliable, culturally appropriate translated resources. Some participants expressed concern that learning theories about specific cultures may lead to stereotypes and that opportunities for formal cultural competence training were limited. Recommendations for practice include the targeting of educational resources to meet the needs of a diverse community and placing cultural competence on the agenda for ongoing training and maintenance of professional standards for clinical genetics practitioners to avoid the current ad hoc approach.


Cultural diversity Genetic counseling Genetics education Cultural competence 



This work was supported in part by a Strategic Research Partnership Grant from the NSW Cancer Council. Bettina Meiser is supported by a Career Development Award from The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (ID 350989). We gratefully acknowledge the participation of the Associate/Genetic Counselors and Clinical Genetics Specialists who so freely and willingly spoke about their experiences.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mona Saleh
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kristine Barlow-Stewart
    • 1
  • Bettina Meiser
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ian Muchamore
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Genetics EducationRoyal North Shore Hospital, St LeonardsSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychiatryThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Psychosocial Research Group, Department of Medical Oncology, Prince of Wales HospitalSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Prince of Wales Clinical SchoolThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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