Background: Australia is a culturally diverse nation with one in seven Australians born in a non-English speaking country. Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) populations are at a high risk of developing preventable chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, renal disease, and chronic respiratory disease, especially communities from the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent and China. Previous studies have shown that access to services may be a contributing factor. This study explores the experiences, attitudes and opinions of immigrants from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and their health care providers with regard to chronic disease care. Methods. Five focus groups were conducted comprising participants from an Arabic speaking background, or born in Sudan, China, Vietnam or Tonga. A total of 50 members participated. All focus groups were conducted in the participants language and facilitated by a trained multicultural health worker. In addition, 14 health care providers were interviewed by telephone. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. All qualitative data were analysed with the assistance of QSR NVivo 8 software. Results: Participants were generally positive about the quality and accessibility of health services, but the costs of health care and waiting times to receive treatment presented significant barriers. They expressed a need for greater access to interpreters and culturally appropriate communication and education. They mentioned experiencing racism and discriminatory practices. Health professionals recommended recruiting health workers from CALD communities to assist them to adequately elicit and address the needs of patients from CALD backgrounds. Conclusions: CALD patients, carers and community members as well as health professionals all highlighted the need for establishing culturally tailored programs for chronic disease prevention and management in CALD populations. Better health care can be achieved by ensuring that further investment in culturally specific programs and workforce development is in line with the number of CALD communities and their needs. © 2012 Komaric et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.