Alcohol and other drugs are understood in many different ways across many different cultures. Our cultural backgrounds inform how we respond to everyday life, our successes, our struggles and our crises. What may be considered 'natural' or 'normal' to one person, might not apply to the next.
According to multicultural marketing agency Etcom, 28 per cent of the NSW population were born overseas with the majority of this percentage being born in China, followed by England, India and New Zealand. In the Western Sydney region, (the fastest growing region in Australia), English is the second language, with Mandarin the second largest language spoken in NSW.
Although rates of problematic alcohol and other drug (AOD) use may be lower in some overseas-born communities, state services are often not accessed by those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities for reasons including:
- Lack of knowledge of Australian health and treatment systems
- Lower rates of referral to some programs
- Lack of culturally accessible services
- Fear of visa/immigration implications
These factors position CALD communities at risk for AOD harms, which is why it is crucial for these communities to be aware that catered support and assistance is available.
Drug & Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre
The Drug & Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (DAMEC) is a non-government organisation whose primary purpose is to reduce the harms associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) within CALD communities in NSW.
DAMEC provides counselling and case management programs; health promotion, research and community development projects. It provides clients with equal treatment, helping them to live happier and healthier lives while having strong relationships with their community and family.
DAMEC receives funding from the NSW Ministry of Health and the Australian Government.
Who is it for?
DAMEC is a free and confidential service that is open to everyone. The service can help:
- People who want to address their substance use (past or present)
- Families of people with substance use problems including parents, siblings and extended family
- Carers, friends and other support people
What can DAMEC offer me?
DAMEC's counselling service is a specialist multicultural service that focuses on meeting the needs of people from CALD communities. The service offers a strengths-based model modified to be culturally responsive, and where possible provided in key community languages. They also run group programs.
DAMEC staff are bilingual and can speak: Arabic, Cantonese, Khmer, English, Mandarin, Teo Chiew, Vietnamese, Lao, Ewe, Ga, Akan, Liberian Creole, Samoan, and Farsi.
DAMEC is able to access the Translator and Interpreter Services for other community languages.
Counselling and support
DAMEC has a team of qualified counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists providing support, information and exploring new ways of looking at issues with you. They can help you to clarify, understand and find solutions to your problem. The DAMEC team offer:
- Drug, alcohol and psychological assessments
- One-to-one counselling
- Referrals to other services
Complementary to the individual support it offers, DAMEC also provides family support services that include family assessments and case management support; group work, home visits; and referrals to other services.
As part of delivering universal healthcare in a culturally diverse society, DAMEC also assists other services to respond to the alcohol and drug-related needs of CALD communities. DAMEC provides training, consultancy and advice on the development of culturally appropriate interventions and staff cultural competency.
The Transitions Project
The Transitions project provides intensive case management for Arabic and Vietnamese-speaking people who have a history of drug and alcohol related issues and who are leaving prison. Assessment and support are provided pre-release and continue for up to six months post-release, however clients are able to continue in the program after the six month period depending on their circumstances
Transitions works with people intending to reside in Sydney and offers practical, personal assistance. This includes information, referrals, advocacy, home visits, family support and mentoring.
Providing a better understanding
Through research and evaluation, DAMEC aims to provide a better understanding of substance use, and access to treatment among CALD communities in NSW. Exploring effective and appropriate AOD service provision with CALD groups is a key focus of DAMEC's work.
DAMEC collaborates across sectors, primarily working with AOD, mental health and multicultural agencies to better understand trends, barriers, and strengths.
Like all DAMEC work, research is accountable to CALD communities first and foremost, to the AOD sector and multicultural organisations, and to NSW Health and other state and federal funding bodies.
DAMEC's Research Framework supports the delivery of high quality research and evaluation by outlining the various staff roles and responsibilities, governance procedures and ethical review standards.
Access DAMEC's 'Respect: Best practice approaches for working with culturally diverse clients in AOD treatment settings' resource.
Are drugs and alcohol a problem for you or someone you care about? Contact DAMEC today on 8706 0150 or visit
Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room