The recent COVID-19 outbreak in Australia has highlighted the importance of clear and precise communication with every section of the community if we are to successfully stay safe and get on with our lives as near to normal as possible.
While general communication across the states has been relatively successful, the complexity of the messages and what support is available in the battle against COVID-19 has exposed the myth that a “one size fits all” strategy is an effective tool to reach everyone in our community.
Migrants, refugees, people on temporary visas and others who do not have English as their first language have been finding it difficult to navigate the many messages out there. For women in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities who are already experiencing isolation and fear due to domestic violence, the opportunities for COVID-19 support are nearly non-existent.
These women are mostly single mums who are stuck at home doing their best to home-school their kids. English is not their first language and many of them do not have the appropriate educational devices for their children. For some of these women, an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) was activated just before the lockdown started. To make things worse, they are stuck at home without the social interaction and support of their friends and family.
Most of these women are unemployed and have very little financial literacy. They have minimal knowledge about the banking system and many of them do not drive. All these difficulties, along with the severe mental trauma all survivors of domestic violence experience, is unbearable. That is why we need to provide more mental health support to those who are vulnerable in our community.
With large parts of some CALD communities living in a COVID-generated vacuum, we have long passed what could be considered a crisis point.
If we are to ensure these vulnerable people have every opportunity to work through and survive COVID-19, it is important for leaders of CALD and other communities where communication barriers may exist, to come forward to raise the concerns of the people they represent. Only an insider can talk about the things needed in that community.
My organisation, Cultural Diversity Network Inc (CDNI) and I are trying our best to fill that gap and help where we can.
This includes supporting recently arrived migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum living predominantly in Inner West and Western Sydney. We provide emergency support for these people in need and help them navigate aid opportunities with governments and other organisations.
CDNI also runs a project on mental health which offers support to senior members of the multicultural community in the Campbelltown Council area through online programs. We have been helping vulnerable people apply for financial assistance provided by the Government and other charity organisations.
While I am happy to see the New South Wales Government, local councils and many non-government organisations providing help in this difficult situation, we need to do a lot more. This is the time for every community leader to step up to help people, advocate for the things needed in their communities and support everyone in the best possible way.
Dr Sabrin Farooqui is a passionate community advocate for social justice and cultural diversity. She has worked for private and public sectors, in higher education, research and policy. Currently, she is the president of Cultural Diversity Network Inc.
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