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NESB young people

Non-English speaking background (NESB) is a term which has become widespread in policy discussion. It is not however inclusive of all young people who experience discrimination on the basis of their cultural background. English is the first language for many non-Anglo young Australians and their families. Another problem with the term NESB, is that it like many other "labels" retains English-speaking as the norm and non-English speaking as 'other' and tends to make invisible the enormous differences that exist within the label 'NESB'.

Racism, ignorance and discrimination are some of the biggest factors effecting NES13 young peoples' access to housing in Australia. Racism and racial violence within many housing services can prevent their access to refuges and supported accommodation. The scarcity of bilingual workers and the inflexible mono-cultural models of service delivery within mainstream services hinders their access even further. Within non-youth ethno-specific services, the housing needs of NESB young people are often ignored or marginalised as the issue of youth homelessness often goes unacknowledged within many communities (Stamenitis 1992).

NESB young people's needs and issues are often homogenised or simplified to 'language' difficulties. Differences between cultural groups and within cultural groups all impact on NESB young peoples access to appropriate housing. More subtle differences include whether or not a young person is a first or second generation migrant or a new arrival, their class or educational background, their colour, whether they are from a first or third world country, their religion and/or their sexuality.

Bilingual workers and ethno-specific youth housing services only go half way to addressing the housing needs of young people from non-English speaking backgrounds. Non-ethno specific services need to be more accessible to young people from a range of cultural and language backgrounds. This can happen on a variety of levels; from increased use by workers of interpreter services, to the development of information targeting NESB young people about their accommodation and support options. This could also include information about the Australian systems and models of service delivery, which is quite alien to many cultures. Anti-racism and access and equity policies at both programmatic and service provider levels are also important to improve NESI3 young people's experience of housing and accommodation services in Australia.