PREFACE TO THE CULTURAL DICTIONARY
The wealth of cultural diversity in Australia is arguably one of its major assets. Acknowledgment of difference and
acceptance of each person‟s unique qualities, as well as their particular blend of cultural influences can assist a
people to grow in cultural richness and social strength. However, differences are often screened through our own
cultural lenses, and our perceptions need to be taken out and examined. The word „prejudice‟ stems from Latin
judge‟. As we all form attitudes based on the limited understanding we currently hold, we are all prone to
prejudice. The key to cultural understanding lies in an open mind. As we do with our computer when it gets
overloaded with junk, we need to press the „Refresh‟ button; to refresh our assumptions, review our attitudes.
Given the rise in expressions of racist attitudes in recent times, it is vital to remember that general statementsabout cultural backgrounds can lead to stereotyping. Stereotyping often undervalues individuals and cultures, andcan be based on mistaken assumptions. The brief, general descriptions of a culture such as the snapshots in thisCultural Dictionary should never be applied in a blanket way to any individual or group.The descriptions can never account for the diversity of individuals and groups within any culture. Factors such asage, education, socio-economic class, religion, gender and personal experience shaping the individual cultural
identity has a bearing on a person‟s values and behaviour. Because of this, the Dictionary can only be a first step
towards understanding. When in doubt, ask the person for their point of view, needs and preferences.While we each receive basic cultural conditioning from the environment we grow up in, every culture is continuallyundergoing change, and within each one there are many variants. It is therefore advisable to learn about eachculture from as many individuals as possible to gain a more balanced concept of their needs and strengths.Conversations, listening and the building of trusting relationships with people from diverse cultural and linguisticbackgrounds are the next important steps toward developing further knowledge and sensitivity. We cannot know
all there is to know about another person‟s culture, but we can extend them respect and interest. Hopefully, the
information collected in the Cultural Dictionary will stimulate your interest.