During the period 16-22 October 2020, the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District teamed up with staff from the City of Greater Shepparton to provide local multicultural communities with immediate information about Covid-19 and local testing sites.
Historically the most effective level of communication between the Ethnic Council and multicultural communities has been based on face-to-face interaction, particularly with community and faith leaders who are very efficient gatekeepers on the flow of information into and out of communities. COVID-19 seriously disrupted the flow of information and this went digital very early. It was obvious that the removal of face-to-face communication impacted the pace with which information was disseminated.
The recent Shepparton outbreak brought agencies together in official and unofficial forums, working collaboratively, which is the normal situation in a place like Shepparton. Interaction between agencies is a critical factor in achieving effective communication and constancy of messaging.
A practical example from the Shepparton outbreak was the opportunity of having our bilingual workers as part of Greater Shepparton City Council’s information van program. Over the course of a week, Council vans visited places like shopping centres and places of recreation where multicultural communities congregated and engaged with people to disperse COVID-19 information. Our workers were available to assist and noticeably the vans attracted people due to the presence of bilingual workers.
People who may not have normally have accessed the information were offered an opportunity to be provided with information in a culturally sensitive way.
The exercise demonstrated the importance of collaboration and partnership, which provided the opportunity to engage CALD community members who otherwise would not have had access to the COVID-19 information.
COVID-19 Mobile Information Units
Two branded mobile units operated from Friday 16 to Wednesday 22 October.
The aim of the units were to educate the Greater Shepparton community regarding the recent outbreak, encourage COVID testing and COVIDSafe compliance.
A major objective was to directly engage with members of our multicultural communities as they may have less awareness of the outbreak and any action required.
Mobile units staffed by Council Pandemic Recovery Officers and multicultural community leaders from Ethnic Council Shepparton and District and Uniting. This was a partnership initiative.
Staff were provided a uniform – jacket and lanyard from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) so that they were identifiable. Support from DHHS and resources provided was valuable and appreciated.
Mobile unit dates, times and locations:
|Friday 16th October||12pm – 2pm||1||St Georges Road shopping centre / schools|
|2.30pm – 4.30pm||1||Riverside Plaza|
|2||Shepparton Marketplace & Bunnings|
|Saturday 17th October||11am – 3pm||1||Riverside Plaza|
|2||CBD – Fryers St|
|Sunday 18th October||11am – 3pm||1||Victoria Park Lake|
|2||Shepparton Marketplace & Bunnings|
|Monday 19th October||
Merrigum (near Primary School)
Vic Park Lake
|3pm – 5pm||1||Victoria Park Lake|
|Tuesday 20th October||10am – 2pm||1||Dookie CBD|
|3pm – 5pm||1||Shepparton Plaza (Benalla Road)|
|Wednesday 21st October||10am – 2pm||1||Africa House|
|3pm – 5pm||1||Officeworks/Salvos Store|
COVID-19 Testing Sites
There eas an excellent response within the Greater Shepparton community to get tested. We are grateful to everyone who has responded quickly and lined up over the last couple of days. There are a number of sites in Shepparton where people can get tested for COVID-19, this is for people from the designated high-risk locations and locations of concern:
- McIntosh Centre at Shepparton Showgrounds, corner of Thompson Street and High Street from 8:00am to 5:30pm
- Two separate drive through clinics at the Shepparton Sports Precinct, corner of Numurkah Road and Brauman Street
- Location 1 – Soccer Fields car park from 8:00am to 5:30pm
- Location 2 – Netball Courts car park from 8:00am to 5:30pm
- Central Park Recreation Reserve, Corner Central Avenue and Channel Road, Shepparton East from 8:00am to 4:30pm
COVID-19 Mobile Information Units total official engagements:
Approximately 1,101 – many more informal and some numbers not captured at some locations e.g. Victoria Park Lake, St Georges Road, conversations with Turkish community etc.
Victoria Park Lake pop-up testing site (organised in a short timeframe in response to learning from the mobile units)
- There is a need to have the right or recognisable multicultural community leaders participating that members of the community recognise and trust so that they have confidence with whom they are dealing with and the information they are receiving.
- Faith leaders would be suitable for future engagement activities particularly when places of worship can hold ceremonies with greater numbers and indoors.
- When rostering of staff, between the two multicultural organisations there is a need to ensure that there is not a double up of translators who spoke the same language, instead making sure multiple languages were available.
- A partnership with Council was important in terms of providing the multicultural community leaders with up-to-date information and where they could source further info if needed – daily briefing by Council staff as well as COVIDSafe briefing/training if needed.
- A debrief was also held at the end of each day with all mobile staff to continue to inform the roll out of the project.
- Going to where members of our multicultural community shop and congregate was important to the success of the mobile vans.
- When rostering the location of the units it was ensured that we attended St George’s Road – multicultural shopping precinct and location of a primary school where many multicultural children attend – Farm Fresh (multicultural market) and Victoria Park Lake where multicultural groups regularly socialise.
- Places of worship would also have been an ideal engagement location if restrictions on attendance were not in place.
- Understanding times of availability was also important – 4pm-7pm post work and collecting children from school and before dinner.
- A Branded/highly visual van and uniforms worked well to identify the team and legitimise the activity.
- Distribution of masks and hand sanitizer was a big hit and acted as non-threatening conversation starter, people very appreciative of these items. Lost count of how much product was distributed. Also a good way to replenish stocks for people as some were consistently using the same disposable mask.
- Many multicultural members of our community are illiterate in their first language so written materials are not always useful – hence conversations are key. Many confused by the messaging e.g. thought that they had to pay $450 to be tested and fined $4,700 if you don’t get tested.
- For those who have a degree of literacy, localised information needed to be available in a range of languages, not just the standard COVID information/messaging. The use of infographics and pictures was also helpful.
- For example, many not were aware of the Shepparton outbreak nor reasons why they should or shouldn’t get tested, hence local information regarding the Shepparton outbreak and location of testing sites would have been valuable.
- DHHS materials featured a QR code to assist with translation, however this technology is not readily used via our community (whether multicultural or Caucasian) – we need to understand how the community accesses their information in undertaking an initiative such as this.
- Based on feedback from the mobile units, a pop-up testing site was established at the Victoria Park Lake with the aim of increased testing by members of our multicultural community. Having one of the mobile information units at the lake at the same time enabled members of the mobile team to escort community members to the testing site including alleviating any fears and translating how the testing process would be undertaken.
- Cultural Competency training is needed in these situations. Testing staff perhaps needed some education regarding the multicultural communities that comprise Greater Shepparton, as some testing staff made cultural assumptions that were deemed “disrespectful” by members of our community.
- Testing results are being received via text in English. Many were not able to understand the information, hence many people approached the mobile team to translate the test results. The English text message created some anxiety as they didn’t know if they were positive or not.
- Many expressed reluctance and concern to be tested as they believed their visa would be checked. Many do not have an understanding between the levels of government and what their roles and responsibility are.
- Many residents were concerned if they had to self-isolate they would lose their job or would not be able to drop off or collect their children from school.