Regional Ethnic Councils in Victoria met at St Paul’s African House, Shepparton, on Friday 23 April to discuss challenges facing Cultural and Linguistically Diverse commuities in Victoria. The meet was attended by representatives from Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Mildura, Albury Wodonga and officers and Board Members of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria.
But for members of Shepparton’s multicultural communities, it’s been a minefield, as many have struggled to locate pandemic updates and vaccine information in their own languages. Representatives from ethnic councils across the state gathered in Shepparton recently to discuss these issues, and others, with the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria board.
The Ethnic Council of Shepparton hosted the meeting with Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, a peak body representing 220 ethno-specific organisations in eight regions across Victoria. The Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria lobbies all levels of government on behalf of multicultural communities in areas like human rights, access and equity and improving services. Representatives from each of Victoria’s eight regions attended the event, held at African House.
Ethnic Council of Shepparton manager Chris Hazelman said the meeting gave ethnic councils a chance to clarify their relationship with the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria. ‘The Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria has played a significant role during COVID-19 in supporting our multicultural communities,’ he said. ‘In the past 12 months, we’ve been meeting pretty consistently via Zoom, but we really wanted to meet face-to-face. ‘Today we are talking about: what is our role as members? What does the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria expect from us? But also, what will we get in return?’
Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria chair Eddie Micallef said the organisation wanted to hear more about the particular challenges different regions were facing. ‘We’re coming up with responses to these challenges, and developing strategies to take to the state government and federal government via our federal body,’ he said. ‘We have an opportunity to represent the views and aspirations of multicultural communities across the state.’
Mr Micallef said one issue was increased racism across the state last year, as areas with large culturally and linguistically diverse communities battled COVID-19 outbreaks. ‘In multicultural communities, families can often share houses, which doesn’t lend itself to social distancing,’ he said. ‘So there were challenges there. ‘But it was a bit unfair to judge these communities without understanding the circumstances they live in.’
Mr Micallef said the meeting was all about responding to issues from a policy and advocacy angle — with the vaccine rollout top of the list. ‘The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is confusing for the mainstream, but even more so for multicultural communities,’ he said. ‘So you can understand why these communities are concerned about the impacts of the vaccine. They need to properly understand the details of the vaccine rollout so they can give informed consent in taking the vaccine.’