The Speaking COVID-19 training project (funded by the Victorian Government Multicultural Taskforce) has come to an end.

Between October 2020 and April 2021, CEH has run 50 workshops for more than 500 Bicultural Workers – numbers that were not foreseen when the project started; CEH was keen however to respond to the high demand from Bicultural Workers for simple, practical information about COVID-19 safety, restrictions and support, and more recently about the vaccination program.

Bicultural Workers are key intermediaries to engage with and support Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities’ understanding of health and services information.  They need to understand information to be able to explain it accurately, at the right level of language and in ways that ‘make sense’ within the cultural and social norms of their community. 

The need for accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information for CALD communities is obvious. More recently, high level of vaccine hesitancy in CALD communities has caused concern amongst government and non-government agencies; it is essential to ensure CALD communities are well informed about the vaccines and that their concerns are addressed if Australia wants to reach the level of immunity necessary for a return to life-as-it-used-to-be prior to the pandemic.

The challenge is how to provide this information in ways that people can understand and put into practice. While training Bicultural Workers is only one tool in a multi-facetted approach, it is an essential one as they are so central to the circulation of information in their communities. They are also knowledgeable, with their ‘fingers on the pulse’ of community word-of-mouth and provided invaluable information to this project.

A particularly satisfying outcome of the project occurred when participants used part of the presentation to train their own community. For instance, a worker used the information and videos to train a group of Vietnamese mothers in a children’s play group. Another example is how the North Richmond High Risk Accommodation Response team is using the knowledge acquired through the workshops to provide information to community members in the local public housing estate.

The recent changes to recommendations regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine are likely to increase vaccine hesitancy amongst Australians. The low level of exposure to COVID-19 in Australia make a risk/benefit calculation of receiving the vaccine a very different conversation from that taking place in Europe or the US, where COVID-19 has touched so many. The onus is now on the Federal Government to ensure people understand the risks and can make informed decisions. As CEH integrated this new information in its last few workshops, participants commented that they ‘all walked away a little more positive about receiving the vaccine’. From a health promotion perspective: mission accomplished!

For more information on the Speaking COVID-19 worksops please contact Sophie Dutertre on