Lost in the pandemic

Some culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Western Australia say they’re experiencing an information gap due to the poor accessibility and quality of official COVID-19 advice, despite coronavirus updates being one part of routine governmental work for almost two years.

The large Chinese and Arabic communities in Perth, in particular, are now demanding changes to the way COVID information is prepared and disseminated.

Fei Xiufang, a Chinese (Mandarin) migrant stranded in Perth since the pandemic started, has no clue how to access COVID-19 information in Chinese on official government websites.

I have never seen it, been aware of it or known how to access to it.

Fei Xiufang

Elvie Yap, the founder of Culture Care WA, has worked with the Chinese community on different projects in Perth for the last 18 years.

She agrees many community members have not been reached out to yet, which results in many of them have no awareness of available COVID-19 information in Chinese on government platforms.

According to the latest census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Arabic is the second most common spoken language other than English at home in Australia, following Mandarin.

Graphic: Yiying Li.

Namarek Mohamed, president of Eritrean Community in WA, says there are fears about the COVID -19 vaccine in her community as people do not understand how scientists developed this vaccine in such a short time.

There is definitely a fear for the vaccine.

Namarek Mohamed
Namarek Mohamed. Photo: Yiying Li.

Community leaders say the quality of some of the COVID-19 content provided by the Federal Government is also a concern.

Kelvin Xian, a certified translator and interpreter of Mandarin and English, says inaccurate translations can lead to misunderstanding.

Essential. It’s like paramount.

Kelvin Xian
Kelvin Xian translating reports. Photo: Yiying Li.

Suresh Rajan, president of the Ethnic Community Council of WA, says it is critically important to deliver accurate and efficient COVID-19 health information to ethnic groups.

Suresh Rajan. Photo: Yiying Li.

It’s far from adequate.

Suresh Rajan

Mr Rajan also criticises the lack of specific statistics about the vaccine roll-out in WA’s ethnic communities which he says has made it more challenging for community leaders to help pass on messages.