Understanding cultures can shift thinking

Dr Samantha Croy is an anthropologist focused on how understanding a different culture’s approach to a problem can shift thinking.

She came to Australia from Singapore as an international student. She joined NARI recently to work on projects that ensure that the needs of older people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds programs are understood and embraced in Australia’s health system.

“Applying for a position in ageing research was incidental, but I perceived it be an incredibly important area of research for advanced industrialised societies like Australia, and an area of research that could accommodate my various interests,” Dr Croy said.

Those interests include straddling different worlds and cultures, and using that experience to further her research.

For her, researching the needs of older culturally diverse people is just part of understanding the needs of an ageing population.

“Culturally and linguistically diverse people make up a good portion of the Australian population, and many of these communities, like the general population, are ageing,” she said.

It is also a question of equity and social justice, as well as crucial to research.

“If you want to do rigorous research on an ageing population, your sample needs to represent that population. Australia has a wonderfully diverse population – finding out how the health system can adapt to this diversity so that it works for all Australians is a challenge to be sure, but also an opportunity.”

As she says, cultural diversity doesn’t just mean having more options about what to have for dinner.

Dr Croy is working on two critical projects currently. The first is with the NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research which is developing a research action plan for to include CALD people in dementia research.

She is currently consulting with many different communities, as well as service providers, advocates, researchers and other stakeholders, to develop the plan which will be an important blueprint for Australia’s health system.

She is also working on a Commonwealth-funded project, the DACS E-interpreting research which is trialling the use of e-interpreting for aged care assessments and talking to older people, the clinicians and interpreters involved in the assessments.

Currently sifting through the data, Dr Croy says that she and her colleagues have found that although people prefer face-to-face interpreting, e-interpreting (where the interpreter is remote) looks to be a viable substitute when face-to-face is not possible.

“This is an exciting revelation as it has the potential to transform the lives of many older CALD backgrounds,” Dr Croy said.