Brad Hazzard is wrong about multicultural western Sydney: new research shows refugees do trust institutions


Tadgh McMahon, Flinders University and Shanthi Robertson, Western Sydney UniversityWith COVID numbers surging in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard speculated that migrant and refugee communities in the region “haven’t built up trust in government”, which might make them reluctant to engage with health authorities.

And yesterday, Hazzard made another oblique reference to residents in western Sydney by saying,

There are other communities and people from other backgrounds who don’t seem to think that it is necessary to comply with the law and who don’t really give great consideration to what they do in terms of its impact on the rest of the community.

Concerns about a lack of trust among migrants and refugees in institutions in Sydney’s west — or their alleged disregard for rules — mirror similar commentary by authorities in Melbourne during COVID outbreaks last year.

Our recent research among refugees in NSW shows these concerns about trust in government are unfounded, particularly among recently arrived refugees.

Our 2019 and 2020 surveys reveal these people, in fact, have very high levels of trust in Australian institutions and a high level of commitment to fulfil their social and civic responsibilities.




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What our research reveals

The study, led by Settlement Services International (SSI) and researchers at Western Sydney University, explored refugees’ sense of participation and belonging in Australian society.

We surveyed 418 refugees in their preferred languages, reaching a diversity of backgrounds. All refugees had permanent residency, and those in our 2020 survey had lived in Australia for an average of 24 months.

In the 2020 survey, we found our respondents had very high levels of trust in the government (86% responding “a lot”) and the police (84% “a lot”), with no noticeable difference between women and men.

Trust in the media, however, was considerably lower (39% trusting the media “a lot” and 41% “some”), but still comparable to the general Australian population.

The lowest trust was expressed for people in the wider Australian community, with just 24% saying they trusted these people “a lot”, 45% saying “some” and 10% saying “not at all”. This was comparable to findings from a long-term study of refugees in Australia.



One typical resident in Sydney’s west

Muneera, who came to Australia from Iraq, lives in Sydney’s west with her family and is typical of the refugees we surveyed. Muneera was supported by SSI when she arrived in March 2019 through the Australian government’s humanitarian settlement program.

While she was not part of the research, she was happy to share her story of dealing with COVID-19 during the current lockdown.

With limited English, Muneera gets COVID-19 information from Arabic community social media groups and mainstream TV news. She also relies on her sister, who speaks English very well, for regular updates on public health restrictions.

Like many other families in lockdown, some of her children have lost work and her son struggles with high school from home without a laptop. Yet, Muneera and her family are committed to staying home and understand the need to stay informed and comply with restrictions.




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Why community support is so vital

In our survey, we found refugees in New South Wales were strongly motivated to fulfil their social and civic responsibilities, including obeying the law, being self-sufficient, treating others with respect and helping others. In fact, these sentiments were shared nearly universally among our respondents.

They also reported knowing how to get help and access essential services, including how to find out about government services (69% “know very well/fairly well”) and, importantly, what to do in an emergency (77% “know very well/fairly well”). They also knew how to get help from the police (78% “know very well/fairly well”).



When it came to helping others in the community, rates of volunteering among refugees in our survey dipped in 2020 (48%) compared to 2019 (60%), but were still on par with rates of volunteering (49%) in the wider Australian community during the pandemic.

All respondents in this survey had Australian permanent residency, a key factor in enabling their settlement and their access to services.




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Refugees in our study also felt welcome in Australia, part of the Australian community and supported by range of networks, including their ethnic and religious communities and other groups. At this early stage of settlement, they found it relatively easy to make friends in Australia, talk to their neighbours and maintain mixed friendships networks.

In western Sydney and other parts of Australia with high cultural diversity, there are multiple challenges in containing COVID-19, including rapidly changing public health advice and the need for accurate information in community languages.

However, the premise that refugees have low levels of trust in institutions or are disinclined to follow rules is not supported by our research.

Rather than labelling diverse communities as lacking in trust, their existing social capital and breadth of their community relationships and networks can be a critical resource in the battle to contain COVID-19, as Muneera’s example shows.

Starting from a position of trust, the challenge becomes how to activate and effectively resource the span of organisations and networks that refugees and migrants engage with in their daily lives.

This should be coupled with clear and consistent messaging in community languages delivered through a variety of channels (including digital) and formats (including video). Peer-to-peer engagement from community members and trusted organisations can be incredibly effective to support behaviour change and maintain health and safety.

Targeted mental health promotion and financial assistance are also key to ensuring families like Muneera’s have the support they need during the pandemic.


The authors’ research on newly arrived refugees will be discussed in a moderated online panel discussion to be held on September 9 from 12:30-2pm (AEST). Registration is free, but essential.The Conversation

Tadgh McMahon, Adjunct Lecturer, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University and Shanthi Robertson, Associate Professor, Institute for Culture and Society & School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How can governments communicate with multicultural Australians about COVID vaccines? It’s not as simple as having a poster in their language


Holly Seale, UNSW; Abela Mahimbo, University of Technology Sydney; Ben Harris-Roxas, UNSW, and Nadia Chaves, La Trobe University

Australia launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign last week, beginning with frontline workers in hotel quarantine, health care and aged care.

But one critical question is whether the immunisation program will meet the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

People from CALD backgrounds form a significant and growing share of Australia’s frontline workforce. This is especially true for aged, disability and community care, as well as hotel quarantine.

For example, 37% of Australian frontline care workers were born overseas according to 2016 statistics. Around 28% are from non‐English‐speaking backgrounds.

Others may have low health literacy skills or find it challenging to track down and understand information about COVID vaccines. Lower health literacy is associated with a reluctance to accept vaccines. Recent studies also suggest those who speak a language other than English at home are less willing to get vaccinated than those who speak English only.

It’s critical we deliver a program aligned with the needs of CALD communities to ensure high levels of public confidence in the COVID vaccine rollout.

To achieve this, in February the federal government released a plan to ensure COVID vaccine rollout information and services are accessible for CALD communities.

The plan outlines the need for clear messaging that’s inclusive, tailored and translated. It also emphasises the importance of working with community leaders and multicultural community organisations.

Our new research, published today, supports the actions outlined in the plan but also highlights areas needing more focus.

We interviewed people working in multicultural and refugee agencies, as well as stakeholders in CALD community organisations, to understand barriers around communication and engagement during the pandemic.




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Information gaps

Our research found gaps in information available during the pandemic. For example, there have been delays in making translations available.

Many people have sought information and news from their countries of origin to fill these gaps. This information may be irrelevant to the Australian situation, or contradictory to local recommendations.

There’s a divide between governments and individuals, with some people feeling like they’ve been left behind. Issues such as an inability to navigate government websites or difficulties accessing support have contributed to this divide.

Translated COVID information hasn’t always been appropriate for people with low literacy or low health literacy levels. This stems from the original source materials in English not being suitable, or translations not being reviewed to make sure the information makes sense.

Newly arrived migrant communities are most in need, as many don’t have established networks to support them. Translated resources have mostly been developed for larger, established CALD groups rather than new and emerging communities. There’s been a lack of tailoring in how messages and information are communicated, and ethnic newspapers and media haven’t been effectively used.

Some people are worried they’ll lose their jobs if they refuse to get vaccinated. The challenge is they don’t have anyone to ask questions of, and are unable to access trustworthy material online.

One issue that was repeatedly raised was burnout experienced by community leaders and other stakeholders. These leaders are asked to repeatedly translate, turn “government speak into community speak”, spread messages and answer questions. They take on this role in addition to their normal responsibilities, with little to no financial support and often with an emotional burden.

The federal government’s plan recognises we need to work with community leaders, but little detail has been provided about whether support, training or resources will be available.

Health-care worker giving patient a vaccine
Community leaders play a crucial role in disseminating COVID information, but they need to be adequately supported or they risk burning out.
Shutterstock

Here’s how things could change

Beyond the need to support community leaders, we also heard from participants about ways to improve communication and vaccine delivery.

Our research team makes a number of recommendations, including the need to:

  • identify other community ambassadors and provide training to build their knowledge and confidence

  • employ bilingual engagement officers from local communities, to support action being taken by communities themselves. Similar engagement officers have been used to support participation in Australian Bureau of Statistics data collection. Census engagement officers work within communities telling people about the census and ensuring everyone can take part and get the help they need. Internationally, this strategy has been used to promote HIV testing and counselling by encouraging community members to talk about the issues

  • invite local CALD communities to initiate and host forums in media of their choice, and to ensure government officials are available to answer questions

  • develop a glossary of immunisation terms. This would enable standard terminology relevant to COVID for community organisations, community and faith-based leaders, translators and interpreters

  • set up vaccination clinics in locations where communities feel safe. This could include outdoor facilities, sports clubs, community centres, faith-based locations and schools. Ensure there are transport options available

  • undertake ongoing surveys to capture how CALD communities feel, think and act in relation to the Australian COVID vaccination program. Tailoring messages will only be effective when informed by the issues that communities are actually concerned about

  • and support alliances between immunisation experts and those working in refugee health and multicultural services.

Participants repeatedly used the phrase “community ownership” during the interviews. It’s critical to genuinely engage communities in the development and testing of communication messages, images and videos. It’s also critical we work with different communities to identify the best ways to pass on information.

And when it comes down to it, word of mouth messages and conversations may be the most effective way to get people involved with the COVID vaccine program.

By supporting the development of community ambassadors to address misinformation and concerns about vaccine safety at a local level, the government will have the best chance of ensuring information reaches those who need it.The Conversation

Holly Seale, Associate professor, UNSW; Abela Mahimbo, Lecturer in Public Health, University of Technology Sydney; Ben Harris-Roxas, Associate Professor, UNSW, and Nadia Chaves, Casual Academic, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The government’s multicultural statement is bereft of new ideas or policies – why?



Image 20170320 8859 1hjgs2z
Malcolm Turnbull often claims Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural nation.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Andrew Jakubowicz, University of Technology Sydney

The slogan for the federal government’s newly released multicultural statement – United, Strong, Successful – sounds somewhat like a soundbite from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The Conversation

It starts with an untruth – that Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural nation. Canada would win that race on any rational criteria. But the new policy stays fairly much in the place where government rhetoric has been located for the past generation – social control and integration.

Conservative multicultural policies in Australia tend to stress social integration into the pre-existing social order, aspirational core values, and signing on to “Team Australia”. More progressive policies tend to stress social, economic and political participation, social justice, and access to education.

What’s in it and where did it come from?

Labor’s last multicultural policy in government in 2011 began with similar statements about multiculturalism meaning a fair go. It noted the importance of reciprocity and recognition. It also emphasised the rule of law and the importance of English as the national language.

The policy created an anti-racism partnership. Its key message was social inclusion.

Since then, a parliamentary committee on migration unanimously supported key innovations in its 2013 report. These included a strong national research program, the promotion of multiculturalism as a policy of rights, responsibilities and obligations in community languages, the promotion of inter-faith and intercultural dialogue, and a focus on employment-related issues.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, a peak body of many multicultural groups, has criticised the Coalition government’s new statement for not tackling the need for either a national Multicultural Australia Act – which was first foreshadowed in 1989 – or a national language policy. This would mirror some of the benefits created for Canada by its own legislation from the early 1980s, and in the Australian states since 1978.

The statement accepts many of the traditional rhetorical elements of the multicultural narrative. “Fair go” reappears, for one. Three groups of values are presented – respect, equality and freedom. These grow from the seven values espoused by the Howard-era Citizenship Council report and the four principles in Labor’s policy.

However, the statement has no interest in social justice. Multiculturalism seems to depend on maintaining the Nauru and Manus Island offshore detention options in order to have strong borders.

In the examples given of how multiculturalism is being implemented, the anti-racism strategy created by the previous government and continued until now is no longer mentioned. The statement offers no new policy initiatives – only a beefing up of the surveillance and integration priorities.

The idea that cultural difference creates productivity which ensures greater wealth and prosperity perhaps reflects Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s input.

“Multiculturalism” as a philosophy is never mentioned. “Multicultural” is defined through its application to a lot of people of different cultural backgrounds living in the same society.

What now?

The statement claims the government will “condemn people who incite racial hatred”. But the ongoing attempts by many government MPs to reduce the protections Section 18C provides against this suggest the level of racial hatred that will be condemned will need to meet a much higher test than now exists.

There is something for nearly everyone in the rhetoric. Even One Nation likes it. But there’s nothing for anyone in terms of new ideas or actions.

The statement’s main effect will be inaction. The critical need for an Australian Multicultural Act to ensure a strong espousal of values and strong and funded delivery to implement them has once more been rejected.

The sector is left without any program bite, just more rhetoric. Its limited and highly vulnerable projects can be abandoned at the government’s whim.

Multicultural Australia remains on the very edge of government, the most junior of the junior assistant ministries. It’s dependent for any movement on weak product champions for its cause scattered through other parts of government.

There’s much ado about not very much at all in this announcement. And key areas like anti-racism are always at risk of disappearing in the next round of budget savings.


Further reading: Interculturalism: how diverse societies can do better than passive tolerance

Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Indian Student Stabbed in Melbourne & India’s Hypocrisy


Tragically an Indian student has been stabbed to death in Melbourne. There is at this stage no indication to suggest a racially motivated attack. There have, however, been a growing number of attacks on Indian students in Australia that do appear to have a racial motivation behind them.

Overall, Australia is a multicultural country that is very accepting of all races, no matter where people have originally come from. Multiculturalism is part of the Australian identity.

It is indeed a terrible event that has taken place in Melbourne. The other attacks on Indian students around the country is also an outrage and is not Australian. My thoughts are with the families of those that have suffered in all of these attacks.

Having said the above, I cannot suffer comments coming from India and from Indians within Australia that these attacks now make Australia a terrorist nation. I find such comments unbelievable in the extreme. They also expose the hypocrisy of the Indian government and Indian state governments, that have allowed Hindu terrorist extremism to continue unabated against Christians within their own country.

Hindu extremist attacks on Christians within India have resulted in many deaths, thousands of displaced refugees, and many hundreds of homes, churches and other buildings being burnt to the ground. Large numbers of Indians responsible for these attacks are being released from prison because of a ‘lack of evidence.’

Please, react in horror and disgust at the attacks on your students within Australia – I understand that fully. It is unacceptable. However, look in your own backyard before pronouncing Australia a terrorist country. It would be laughable if the situation wasn’t as serious as it is.