Media Releases

Research released today debunks the rhetoric that people from migrant backgrounds don’t have adequate access to COVID-related information.
It just depends on how and by whom they are informed.

Settlement Services International (SSI), a leading NGO that specialises in supporting people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, surveyed 810 clients from different families. The research shows they took the pandemic very seriously – disproving much of the racist stereotyping seen in the media in recent months.

SSI has also seen the determination of community leaders to prevent the scapegoating of migrant communities in NSW during the pandemic and the importance of connecting with people, peer to peer, through trusted relationships, to communicate health and safety messages.

As a community organisation providing settlement and social services, including foster care, employment and disability services, SSI is feeling the impact of COVID-19 on some of its most vulnerable individuals and communities.

The identification of pockets of Western Sydney as COVID-19 “hotspots” heightened the sensitivity of SSI and community leaders to how community members were experiencing the pandemic.

SSI conducted the survey of clients in its Humanitarian Settlement Program residing in Fairfield, Liverpool and Campbelltown LGAs to understand their experience and perception of COVID-19 and to ensure they were receiving up-to-date information.

  • The data suggests that respondents are engaging in all the recommended safety measures including using sanitisers, washing their hands and practising social/physical distancing
  • Respondents are taking active measures to ensure their safety and the safety of the community at large

Consultations and virtual roundtables with 25 community leaders and representatives in metro and regional NSW revealed:

  • Communities used social media and phone calls to connect and reduce isolation, with some people using virtual meetings and information sessions to support community activities and information sharing
  • Across communities there are numerous examples of asset and resource sharing, demonstrating a strong willingness to help others through the pandemic
  • Leaders emphasised the need to be kept up to date with ongoing COVID-19 changes, especially around policy, health, travel, support and wellbeing

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said, “Should there be a Melbourne-scale outbreak in Sydney, migrant communities do not want to be scapegoated. SSI has stayed connected to community leaders and can see evidence that they have taken the initiative and are exercising leadership to make sure their communities are COVID-19 safe.”

She said it was clear from the range of SSI’s community engagement activities that:

  • Community leaders were a vital asset and ambassadors, and were stepping up in keeping newcomer and other diverse communities COVID-19 safe and aware
  • COVID-19 health messages were getting through to people in case management arrangements like SSI’s Humanitarian Settlement Program. That affirmed the need to utilise existing settlement workers and other trusted community pathways to reach communities whose first language was not English
  • Responses to the pandemic needed to be tailored, not a one-size-fits-all approach

The acting Minister for Immigration has noted that Sydney was just as multicultural as Melbourne, yet had no recent outbreaks.

“SSI wants to help make sure that remains the case,” said Ms Roumeliotis.

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