Measures in the last 24 hours deploying Australian Defence Force personnel to Greater Sydney to ensure residents are complying with COVID-19 orders is undermining the pressing need for collaborative action to solve the evolving crisis in NSW, according to community organisation and social business, Settlement Services International (SSI).
SSI – which works extensively with migrant and refugee communities and its member migrant resource centres – echoes concerns raised by Cumberland City Council major Steve Christou who said he was concerned about the prospect of the army being sent in, as it would cause anxiety among residents.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said that many south-west Sydney residents are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including refugees, who are from war-torn countries and might see military presence as a threat.
“Many people residing in Sydney’s west are refugees who are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially mental health, due to traumatic events they have experienced in the past,” she said.
“COVID-19 has considerably exasperated these pre-existing stressors for some community members, and the image of troops patrolling their streets might re-trigger past trauma.”
In a press conference today, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said that police would work in tandem with multicultural liaisons across Greater Sydney.
“For diverse communities, delivery of information is key, and a strong multicultural liaison is required,” said Ms Roumeliotis.
“Community leaders are a vital asset and ambassadors for peer-to-peer communication to keep newcomers and other diverse communities safe and aware.”
“But more can be done to filter that information down at a grassroots level. We need to engage community leaders and trusted organisations that are already working in community.”
A good example of this in practice was when SSI’s Parramatta office turned into a COVID-19 pop-up vaccination hub last week, offering the jab to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The initiative is run in collaboration with Western Sydney Local Health District and supported by SSI and NSW Refugee Health. By having a dedicated vaccination clinic, SSI can provide the specific support that people from CALD communities need, including in-language support.
“The high demand we had for this service shows the need for innovative solutions that create safe pathways to health services and information.
“We’re urging the government to tap existing social-infrastructure channels to manage community outreach and jab more optimally.”