Words at word: Should we use CALD or CARM?


Inclusive language is ever-changing. Should organisations use the term culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)? Should we use both descriptors or something different? 


This is one of the questions raised by Diversity Council Australia in a recent article, Words at Work: Should we use CALD or CARM?

“Inclusive language is often derided as politically correct, or more recently as “woke”. But thinking about the way we speak to each other is a simple way to make workplaces more inclusive,” the article states. “We need the knowledge and skills to talk in an informed and thoughtful way about race and racism, using the appropriate vocabulary.” 

DCA talks about the need to build our racial literacy while examining the difference between the different terms CARM and CALD and the contexts in which each could be used. 

WOB Cultural Diversity Committee member Gloria Yuen, who was on the panel of the DCA’s Culturally and Racially Marginalised Women in Leadership report launch earlier this year, said she identifies as CALD, CARM, BIPOC and Professional Migrant.

“My experience reflects all labels,” she said.“Each organisation and member is unique, however labelling is extremely important and being able to talk about race and racism in corporate is essential to drive change,” she said.


WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee Chair, Sara Pantaleo said: “I personally only use CALD and have never used CARM. Still, I fully endorse the DCA position that we need to use the right language, and the term cultural diversity is soft when people are experiencing racism, and it should be expressed as such.”

So what is the difference between CALD and CARM? DCA explains it like this:

Culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) 

We use the term culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) to refer to people who cannot be racialised as white. This group includes people who are Black, Brown, Asian, or any other non-white group, who face marginalisation due to their race. The term “culturally” is added because it recognises that people may also face discrimination due to their culture or background. For example, a woman who is a Muslim migrant from South Sudan may face discrimination because of her race, religion and cultural background.

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) 

This is a term that many Australians would be familiar with as it has been used by government for some time. CALD is a much broader category than CARM, and often extends to people who can be racialised as white, even if they are not from an Anglo-Celtic Background. For example, a Ukrainian migrant or someone who was born in Australia to Ukrainian parents.   CALD people see themselves (or their parents) or are seen by others as being from a non-English speaking background, and/or being from a non-Anglo-Celtic cultural background.    This term prioritises cultural and linguistic explanations of difference and is therefore insufficient for any meaningful discussion or understanding of race and racism. In fact, the term “CALD” is rarely used to describe race in an Australian context. 

So, what terms should we use? That depends on context, says DCA: 

“Consider the meaning you want to convey and how this relates to the people or groups you are discussing. This is the most important consideration. To use language effectively we must listen to people with lived experiences and centre the terms they prefer.”

For more information see Diversity Council Australia’s Words At Work.  

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