Covid-19 Online Multicultural Forums, South Australia

In late May 2020, with the onset of the second wave in Melbourne becoming apparent, SA Health embarked on an urgent and critically important engagement in South Australia.

SA Health had been working hard (and very successfully) to keep South Australians safe from COVID19. 

However, following issues experienced in Victoria, SA Health identified that it had some gaps in how it was communicating with SA’s diverse communities and that it needed to focus in on understanding the needs of multicultural communities in particular and how they could best support them.
SA Health’s objective was to make sure that key information about the prevention and management of COVID 19 was reaching all communities in South Australia. 

With this objective in mind, democracyCo was brought in to run a simple but deep consultation process with multicultural leaders which enabled SA Health to better understand how the different communities were understanding and responding to the pandemic.

The Approach

The Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) were asked to identify key community leaders in the state and this group were invited to attend one of two Zoom community forums (one in the morning and one in the afternoon/ evening) facilitated by democracyCo facilitators.

To prepare participants for the workshops, a participant pack was sent to them (outlining the tech requirements as well as the purpose of the workshop) and was translated into multiple languages.

At the event, participants were broken up into four small groups as closely aligned in terms of their community relationships as possible. Each group then explored five issues or areas of COVID19 management

  1. Some general reflections / discussion about how the communities are coping at the moment
  2. Community’s understanding of how the disease is spread
  3. Communities understanding about the symptoms
  4. Community’s understanding about what to do whilst waiting for results and if someone has COVID 19
  5. What help the community needs to help support it in meeting

46 leaders attended the online forums and completed a survey whilst online. At completion of the workshop, participants were invited to move to the ‘departure lounge’ to meet with Prof Spurrier and the senior SA Health team to discuss aspects of importance to them.

Participants were asked to share the survey with other leaders in their communities. An extra 50 leaders completed the survey.

The survey  was completed by people from the following country/regions: Afghan, Arabic, Bangladesh, Burmese, Burundi, Cambodia, Central Asia, China, East Africa, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Latin America, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Sudan, Spanish speaking countries, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Uganda, Uyghur, and Vietnam.

Participants listed the following 35 as the main languages they spoke to each other: Acholi, Afghan, Arabic, Bangla, Bhutanese, Cantonese, Farsi, Hainanese, Hakam Hinda, Hokkien, Italian, Karen, Khmer, Khmer, Kirundi, Kiswahili, Luganda, Luo, Malay, Mandarin, Nepali, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish, Swahili, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, Uyghur, Vietnamese, Zami.

Supporting the Youth Panel was a Government Task Group – made up of over 20 government agencies who have an interest in young people, or provide government services to them. The purpose of convening the Task Group was to establish and carry through a ‘whole of government’ approach to implementing the Youth Action Plan.

6 members of the Youth Panel joined the Task Group to ensure there was youth involvement in the government focused action planning phase of the draft plan.

Reports / Outcomes / Influence

The insights gained from the forum and the data collected from the survey have resulted in a comprehensive information set about multicultural communities which is being used to inform government communications / messaging and also policy in the midst of the global pandemic.

The information identifies:

  1. The critical areas in which there appears to be a lack of understanding regarding COVID19 and how it is best managed
  2. Communities that appear to be at most risk
  3. Overarching themes from the consultation
  4. Quick wins – actions which may be easily undertaken immediately that will achieve significant improvement
  5. Longer term actions

At the end of December 2020 as this case study was written, all of the quick wins have been implemented, and the bulk of the longer-term actions were also being implemented.

The intel gained in this process successfully supported SA Health to avoid a second wave in the state – with particular use during the Thebarton and Parafield clusters.

Anecdote from the experience

One young student from India who participated in the workshop said that her and her friends were not confident to get tested for covid19. They had significant fears around testing namely: a) they thought it would cost them money, b) they weren’t sure if the needle was sterile and c) they weren’t sure what they were being tested for (ie were they being tested for something else). Immediately on learning this, the SA Chief Medical Officer Nicola Spurrier instructed communications to be released that day regarding the cost of the testing, and over the course of that week SA Health rolled out information through these young people to address their other concerns.

Get Involved.

Are you interested in how our democracy works? And want to help be part of making it work better? Register to be part of our Deliberative Army, all committed to working with government to develop public policy.

democracyCo’s work is undertaken on the lands of Australia’s First Nations People.

For millennia, you as the ancestors have been guardians of this Country and we deeply respect and acknowledge Elders past, present and emerging.

As we collaborate together, democracyCo will look to Australia’s First Nations people, the world’s oldest living culture, for guidance that will help sustain our connection to Country and inform the work that we do to bring people together.

Our work is in service to Reconciliation and to moving forward together.

We acknowledge that we have much work to do.