Supporting CALD Australians to be responsible energy consumers

This $102,714 project funded by Energy Consumer Australia (2020-2022) involves the evaluation of the narratives contained in existing energy policies and programmes and will consider how fit for purpose they are for engaging and bringing about change among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse consumers. Our aim is to help inform future storytelling approaches to effectively engage CALD energy consumers through the development of guidelines and a toolkit.

Energy is an essential service, integral to supporting healthy people and communities. Creating responsible consumers and managing everyday energy use is a key focus for delivering energy productivity in Australia. However, there is a need for increased focused on how CALD Australian consumers can be supported regarding their energy consumption. Specifically, it has been has found that people with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds struggle to understand market information and make their preferences known. And CALD Australians often experience poor outcomes in terms of energy affordability, comfort and convenience, and health and well-being. The question therefore becomes how we support CALD energy consumers to be responsible and efficient, but also support their health and well-being through policy, programs, and advocacy.

Prior research has suggested that accounting for geographic and cultural context, taking a tailored approach, applying relevant behavioural science concepts and theories, good planning, and strong evaluation are essential features of successful energy efficiency interventions. However, there is a paucity of evidence and practice regarding how CALD communities should be engaged to encourage them to become energy efficient. We know that CALD consumers often have different and distinct everyday energy use practices: for example the use of traditional cook stoves, particular bathing practices that draw on energy to fuel hot water systems, and heating and cooling practices that align with preferred cultural and taste preferences.

This project draws upon narrative theory and combines automated text analysis of policy and program documents, longitudinal qualitative narrative interviews with CALD householders, and video ethnography, to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of existing narrative in supporting CALD energy consumers. The insights developed through the project will be used to develop a package of guidelines to inform future policy and programme storytelling approaches to engage CALD energy consumers in energy efficient and sustainable practices while supporting their comfort, health, and well-being.

The interdisciplinary project team brings researchers working in Narratology, Social Marketing for Behaviour and Social Change, Policy Analysis, and Critical Social Change.


Associate Professor Tom van Laer, University of Sydney