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Cultural Support Workers aid diverse communities

District supports diverse communities during COVID-19.

Portrait photo of a woman
SydneyConnect Image: Layla Naji

Layla Naji is passionate about helping other people.

"I always put myself in their shoes," she said.

Layla is one of Sydney Local Health District's 90 Cultural Support Workers who share health information with the District's culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

The District has been a long-time home for Greek, Italian, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese communities. There is also a large Arabic speaking community and newly-arrived Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Mongolian and Rohingya communities.

Layla moved to Australia from Iraq about 30 years ago and joined the District's Cultural Support Program in 2009.

"We help people navigate health care services," she said.

During COVID-19, Cultural Support Workers have been supporting CALD community members at COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics, working in collaboration with the District's contact tracing team and visiting local businesses to share COVID-safe messages.

"CALD communities often face challenges with accessing health care which may include language barriers, little knowledge of the health care system and differing beliefs about health care," Denise Voros, the Coordinator of the District's Cultural Support Program, said.

"Our Cultural Support Workers have played a key role in supporting our CALD communities throughout the evolving COVID-19 pandemic," she said.

The Cultural Support Program is run by The Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub which was set up to improve the health of the District's CALD communities.

The Diversity Hub has been integral to the District's on-going response to COVID-19, ensuring CALD communities have access to the current information in their language.

"We are continuing to collaborate with community leaders in our District to develop multilingual resources to ensure up-to-date information is able to be shared with our diverse communities," Barbara Luisi, the District's Director of The Diversity Hub, said.

The latest information package, 'Caring for our community during COVID-19' was shared among 1000 community organisations across New South Wales.

It included videos in 16 different languages to promote the message that people need to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The videos have been viewed more than 64,000 times.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, The Diversity Hub has developed more than 800 multilingual digital and print COVID-19 communication and information resources across 22 community languages.

These include Arabic, Bangla, Burmese, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Mongolian, Nepali, Portuguese, Rohingya, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tibetan, Thai, Urdu and Vietnamese.

The Diversity Hub has also liaised with more than 50 ethnic media outlets – print, digital and broadcast – from key languages to promote awareness about COVID-safe messages.

Trained bilingual Cultural Support Workers have acted as spokespeople to explain basic COVID-19 information.

Layla is pleased to contribute.

"If I'm able to support a community member today, then perhaps they'll be able to help someone else in the future," she said.

For the latest information about COVID-19, please visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/COVID-19