Our priority throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been the health and welfare of Victoria’s multicultural communities. We have advocated strongly on their behalf and provided support wherever possible.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an enormous impact on all Victorians, affecting our health, livelihoods, job and financial security, as well as mental health and wellbeing. Recognising the unique challenges for Victorians of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the VMC has focused its efforts throughout the pandemic on:
- engaging with communities to understand their needs
- advocating to government on behalf of communities
- providing leadership and support to communities; and
- communicating government messages to communities
Working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC), the VMC played an important role in elevating the voices of multicultural communities to inform the government’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19). We held a series of consultations with diverse communities, provided ongoing advice on the provision of in-language information, and disseminated regular, timely and accurate information throughout our extensive communication channels and networks.
We also assisted with response efforts on the ground, including mobilising community leaders and representatives to volunteer alongside DHHS with doorknocking efforts and other localised efforts aimed at keeping Victorians safe.
To learn about the critical issues impacting multicultural communities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the VMC conducted a series of consultations with key stakeholders, multicultural and multifaith community groups, young people, people with disabilities, multicultural business community and service providers. This included ethno-specific roundtables that provided a focused discussion where community members could raise their concerns in a safe environment.
The insights and feedback provided through these consultations have informed the Victorian Government’s response to better support communities in areas that were hardest hit by coronavirus (COVID-19). And where possible, representatives from government departments and stakeholders including Department of Human Services and the Deputy Chief Health Officer, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Victoria Police attended these consultations to consolidate response efforts and support.
Additional consultations were held regarding Victoria’s coronavirus (COVID-19) testing programs and Stage 3 restrictions to ensure that multicultural communities are well informed about the importance of testing and how to keep themselves and their household safe.
Elevating community voices
Overwhelming evidence points to the disproportionate and exceptional challenges faced by multicultural communities as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). Communities have shared their concerns with us, particularly regarding accessing in-language information and resources, employment and job security, accessing government benefits, temporary visa issues. They also raised issues around mental health, social isolation, family violence, racism, misleading media reporting and the treatment of temporary visa holders and international students.
In-language information and communication
In one of the most successful, multicultural societies in the world, it is vital that all members of the community are kept appropriately informed to protect the lives of all Victorians.
The VMC advocated for in-language information and resources from the outset, covering both the initial phase of warnings and restrictions as well as subsequent phases.
This pandemic has highlighted the need for timely, accurate and accessible in-language information and resources to support multicultural communities in navigating future crisis situations – not only key safety and health messages but also on specific initiatives and programs to ensure access to services related to employment, small business, employment, family violence, mental health etc.
As a conduit between communities and government, the VMC played a key role in the timely dissemination of coronavirus (COVID-19) information and resources throughout Victoria’s diverse communities. This was achieved through the VMC’s weekly email Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Update, the VMC website, social media, community consultations, direct emails throughout our networks and advisory groups. This proved to be a very effective way of sharing information far and wide across the state.
Through our extensive discussions and consultations with communities, we recognised that the messenger is just as important as the message, and therefore advocated for the engagement of community leaders and representatives as trusted messengers within their communities. This also proved to be a valuable channel for the Victorian Government and will continue to be adopted going forward.
Our commitment to providing ongoing assistance to multicultural communities and advocating for their needs to Victorian Government departments and agencies will continue into the recovery phase and beyond.
Reviewed 02 November 2020