22 March 2022

Embracing diversity - a chat with Margaret

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Meet Margaret, Executive Director at Estia Health Werribee. As we celebrate Harmony Week, with the theme ‘everyone belongs’, Margaret shares her experience in how she incorporates embracing diversity into her role.

What does embracing diversity mean to you?
Embracing diversity to me is acknowledging everyone’s different backgrounds, cultures and life experiences. Respecting the uniqueness that we can all bring to enrich and celebrate life together. Diversity encourages engagement with each other. It promotes curiosity in understanding each other’s background and sharing everyone’s unique life experiences.

Can you share how you’ve helped your team embrace diversity?
In one case, I provided support to an employee whose culture and background had certain expectations, which meant she struggled in being assertive and lacked confidence to speak up. I believed this employee had a lot to offer to the team. I initially walked in her shoes to understand her difficulties. We worked together to build her confidence with strategies of how she could feel valued, while also respecting her cultural expectations. The employee required a lot of reassurance and constant rapport building. She is a great team member and is now displaying confidence and pride in her work. She continues to share the contributions she’s making and it’s wonderful to see.

How do you support and help your residents and employees to feel a sense of belonging?
It all starts with respecting and understanding the support we can give to each other. Estia Health Werribee has many cultures, in particular Italian, Spanish and Maltese. It’s so important to put yourself in each person’s shoes, supporting them if English isn’t their first language.

Something that I have recently implemented is translating the minutes from the resident’s minutes into different languages and I personally deliver these to the residents. This means we’re acknowledging each resident, the value that they can bring to the home and they feel included and part of the family.

I had an Italian family that were having difficulty in accepting that aged care may be the best option for their mother. Coming from the Italian culture myself, I understood the challenge – in Italian culture the elderly are cared for by family and in this case, although the mother was accepting that she needed to come into aged care, the daughter could not let go as she felt that she was letting her mother down. My role was to support the daughter in the emotional trauma she was experiencing. It took over six months of several respite admissions until the daughter could make the decision. My role is to start relationships with residents and families from the minute they walk into the home, listen to their story and understand their needs and difficulties. The daughter now reflects on her decision and on several occasions, she continues to thank me for the support I provided to her and her mother and it’s wonderful to connect with the resident and family with my own background, talking in their native tongue.

Why do you think it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate Harmony Week?
Harmony week is a great opportunity to share the wonderful diversity that each person brings into the home. It builds relationships and understanding of diversity. It allows us to celebrate life together in understanding each other’s background and how can we bring this into the home to enrich lives.

Harmony Week to me fosters inclusiveness, respect and the idea that people of all different cultures can make a valuable contribution to society.