Passing on Our Culture: How Older Australians from Diverse Cultural Backgrounds Contribute to Civil Society Academic Article uri icon


  • Australia is a culturally diverse country, with one in five older Australians born overseas in non-English speaking countries, as well as others who are part of the Indigenous population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Little is known about how these individuals age productively and contribute to society. Survey data show that they are less likely to volunteer for an organisation than other older people, yet it may be that they contribute to civil society in alternate ways that are generally unrecognised and unacknowledged. In the absence of a general lack of understanding of how older Australians from diverse cultural backgrounds contribute to community, the aim of the present paper is to explore this topic using qualitative data from a larger study of the lived experiences of older Australians. Findings suggest that respondents are very active within their families and communities in ways that differ from mainstream older Australians. Generally, they have an important role in maintaining or promoting their culture; and providing support across their communities based on common experience. In particular, respondents describe a special relationship with the young within their communities. This includes being a grandparent or elderly advisor, as well as the role that many Indigenous elders play in encouraging and supporting troubled young people. Although further and more representative studies of older Australians are now needed, this paper, nevertheless, begins to explore what has been a neglected area of ageing policy and research.

publication date

  • February 22, 2007