Cultural Diversity

When people are asked to think about diversity, one of the first things that springs to mind is often diversity in culture. In the 2021 census nearly half of all Australians (49%) were born overseas or had at least one parent who was born overseas.1 We are a diverse nation!

With this diversity of geographical and cultural backgrounds comes a diversity in thought and behaviour as well.

If we do not learn about the influences that cultural groups have had on our mainstream history and culture, we are all missing out on an accurate view of our society and our communities.

– Community Tool Box


Our values are deeply ingrained in each of us. They have been shaped by some of our earliest memories and experiences including our family makeup, religion, education and societal world view. Values can change throughout a lifetime but they tend to be more rigid than our attitudes and behaviours.

Cultures have a set of values and traditions that are upheld by the vast majority. For example, in colonised Australia, common values include mateship, egalitarianism, authenticity, informality and humour.2 These are values that have been shaped through colonisation, the impact of numerous immigrating cultures and our experiences as a country. Many of these values are reflected in the way we work and interact with each other as well as the laws we live by. This is also the case in other countries, however, the values and experiences tend to differ.

Watch the video below to explore one of the greatest divides in cultures across the world – the comparison of individualistic (me) and collectivist (we) societal values.

Click on the arrow below to watch the video

There are many other value differences that might be considered. Some of these include:

Click on the headings below for more information

Some cultures (like Australia) value the use of time to plan their day. These cultures tend to have a high drive for making money and focus on achieving tasks – there is a belief that ‘time is money’. They might be offended if someone is 5 minutes later for a meeting.

However, many collectivist countries prefer a more relaxed view of time as their priority is often the maintaining and developing of relationships.

Some cultures are based on meritocracy, this is where a person is valued for the things they have achieved in their life and people are expected to work hard to get anywhere.

Meanwhile, cultures that are based on ascription value people for their family background, social class and place in the hierarchy. In these cultures, older people are often seen as wise and knowledgeable.

Some cultures value saving face and maintaining dignity of an individual or their family group. These cultures will often have an indirect form of communication to avoid giving criticism and confrontation. Maintaining a relationship can be more important than telling the truth.

In individualistic societies it is common for the task to be the priority in any given situation. People may jeopardise a relationship to achieve their goal which could mean ending a relationship or postponing asking how a person is until after getting what you need from them.

In collectivist societies building and maintaining a relationship is often the priority. These cultures will often spend time together eating, drinking and discussing personal lives before getting down to business – to skip straight to business would be considered rude.

In cultures that value direct communication, people say what they mean and to the person they want to say it to. It is better to speak to someone you have an issue with and sort out the problem.

However, an indirect communication style would mean implying or suggesting a meaning to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or challenging authority. It is better to address the problem indirectly to maintain the peace and allow the person to save face.

Some cultures believe in fate and destiny while others believe that people are responsible for what happens to them. In the latter, people are expected to be able to achieve more if they apply themselves.

The values we hold dear will affect our behaviours, the way that we respond to situations and how we live our lives. There is no wrong or right when it comes to values, just different.

The values of a society can also give you hints as to the cultural taboos present. Cultural taboos are topics that are considered improper to discuss. They are unique to each culture, for example, in Australia it is often frowned upon to discuss a person’s weight, age or salary. In other cultures it might be considered inappropriate to discuss sex, death and controversial or traumatic historical events.

A Moment of Reflection...

  • What do you think your values are?
  • Where do they come from?
  • How do they help you to make both big and small decisions?

If you aren’t sure what your values are, take a look at this article from Indeed.

Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

While we can make some generalisations about cultures we need to be vigilant to not let them become unhelpful stereotypes. Our brains are programmed to look for short cuts to make our lives easier but these shortcuts, e.g. stereotypes, can lead to stigmatisation. Do your own research about other cultures and ways of life but always ask the individual about their experience as well.


Extend Your Learning

Resources like SBS’s Cultural Atlas can assist you with identifying potential values, cultural taboos and significant historical events for different cultures.

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2022). 2021 Census: Nearly half of Australians have a parent born overseas. Accessed on 05/04/23 at
  2. Cultural Atlas (n.d.) Australian Culture – Core Concepts. Special Broadcasting Service. Accessed on 05/04/23 at
  3. Care Quality Commission (2022). Cultural Values. Accessed on 05/04/23 at
  4. Menzies, F. (2018). 8 Core Cultural Differences. Accessed on 05/04/23 at
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