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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Community led health initiative aims to build more resilient communities to COVID-19 and misinformation


IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CALD COVID-19 Community Resilience Program (CCCR) is a new project of STARTTS and a collaboration with NSW Health that aims to build the capacity to deliver and support the delivery of community led health communications initiatives to build resilience to the impacts of COVID-19.

30 migrant and refugee community leaders and volunteers have stepped up to be part of the project funded by Multicultural NSW Innovation Grants.

The project will involve training for this group in social media content creation, current COVID-19 and associated health measures information, ability to identify misinformation on social media associated with COVID-19.

The project participants will be supported to create their own culturally and linguistically appropriate social media content and engage in one-on-one and small group conversations about COVID-19, vaccines and public health measures. They will be available on a 1800 telephone line to respond to queries of their community members.

“The project will be coordinated by Lilian Shamoon who has worked extensively with refugee communities in South West Sydney in relation to COVID safety, in particular in Fairfield during the height of the Delta outbreak in 2021,” said STARTTS Deputy CEO, Lachlan Murdoch.

“Lilian will be able to offer her experience of working with diverse communities supporting access to COVID-19 testing clinics together with engagement with community leaders to inform the project.”

While COVID-19 vaccination rates and testing are increasing, members of CALD communities have been identified as needing assistance in navigating vaccine information. This also includes people from emerging communities, refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

Western and South West Sydney have the highest concentration of CALD communities in NSW, many of which come from refugee backgrounds.

With COVID 19 vaccine hesitancy on the rise in Australia, research suggests migrant and refugee communities may be more susceptible to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

For the past 5 years, researcher and recent PhD graduate of UTS, Dr. Michael Camit has been working with community leaders from migrant and refugee backgrounds to explore the potential of social media to contribute to health outcomes.

“What started as a small UTS PhD research project to understand how social media is being utilised to improve health for migrants and refugees, will be used to inform insights for winning the battle against misinformation about COVID-19 in languages other than English,” Dr Camit said.

“With the changing nature of advice regarding COVID-19, it is important that we work with bicultural community members to understand what conversations are happening in their communities about COVID-19 and how they respond to the various regulations and policies.”

Dr Camit added that although Community leaders and volunteers disseminated key information about COVID-19, there is more to learn about their potential to build individual resilience in their communities about COVID-19.

To answer this question, two way conversations will be undertaken with refugee and migrant volunteers who are passionate about helping their community disseminate social media and health messages.

“My hope is that by learning about how social media works, and how disinformation is spread, community members can be more critical about health messaging they receive. By having a dedicated phone lines to listen to community concerns we can build more resilient communities to COVID-19 and misinformation,” said Dr Camit.

Consultations with local CALD community services and pilot language-specific lines and reports from bilingual workers suggest a preference of community members from CALD backgrounds to speak to someone directly in their preferred language.

Local and state government and NGO services through regular updates and fostering communities of practice, will gain real time feedback on how local communities are interpreting and experiencing the changing COVID-19 policies, regulations and services.

Online specialist training delivered via STARTTS will increase reach and address geographical boundaries.


Media inquiries: Karen Collier, STARTTS Communications Officer or call 9646 6700

STARTTS is a specialist, not-for-profit affiliated health and human rights organisation that was established in 1988. It provides culturally relevant psychological treatment and support, and community interventions, to help people and communities heal the scars of torture and refugee trauma and rebuild their lives in Australia. STARTTS also fosters a positive recovery environment through the provision of training to services, advocacy and policy work.

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