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New multilingual COVID-19 support line launched

The Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing (CCDA), peak body for cultural diversity in aged care, has unveiled its new Multilingual COVID-19 Support Line this week, providing culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) older Australians with access to coronavirus health advice.

The Federal Government is funding the Multilingual COVID-19 Support Line which will offer six 1800 phone lines dedicated to six languages. [Source: iStock]
The Federal Government is funding the Multilingual COVID-19 Support Line which will offer six 1800 phone lines dedicated to six languages. [Source: iStock]

Since COVID-19 arrived in Australia in early 2020, the Government and aged care organisations have provided older Australians with important health information and aged care advice through dedicated phone lines.

However, these dedicated lines don't cater for everyone, with the manager for the CCDA,  Lisa Tribuzio, saying that it is apparent that a one size fits all approach can exclude some older people. 

"A plethora of health updates have been translated, sent to communities and posted on websites, however, in many ways these have been incredibly confusing for older people from CALD backgrounds to navigate and access the information they need," explains Ms Tribuzio.

"It’s wonderful to see projects like this new multilingual support line help our sector and government to better tailor public health advice for these groups as language issues can present significant barriers for people in need of health updates and aged care services."

The Federal Government is funding the project, which will offer six 1800 phone lines dedicated to six languages, including Greek, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Italian, so that CALD callers can be greeted with their chosen language.

All the calls will be screened by trained multilingual personnel from the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre (Spectrum MRC), Australia's most established migrant resource centre.

The graduate interpreters and translators are supported by the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) Alliance and other aged care peak bodies.

People that call the line will then be directed to multilingual resources from the wider COVID-19 Support Line for older Australians, delivered by Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), National Seniors Australia, and Dementia Australia.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Spectrum MRC, Bernie Nott, says that the organisation has witnessed firsthand the anxiety that people from CALD backgrounds felt over the current pandemic.

"This support line helps to address that, and also provides a new innovative platform that can now be adapted to any service type to create more inclusive and accessible services for all CALD communities," says Mr Nott.

Chief Executive of COTA Australia, Ian Yates, has commended the project, saying that the initiative will help to promote access to information for older people who are multilingual or have English language barriers.

Ms Tribuzio adds that the project will ensure CALD older Australians will have the same access to aged care and health advice as other older people.

Being greeted in your own language on this support line may sound simple, however, it can be really important for addressing digital and literacy barriers for people with CALD backgrounds.

Ms Tribuzio says that while this initiative for CALD older people is a step in the right direction, she believes that the support line is far from a final solution for achieving this.

"Our Centre and PICAC Alliance are looking forward to continuing work with the Government and the wider sector to integrate flexible approaches to inclusive practices from the very onset of service development and delivery," says Ms Tribuzio.

The Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line is available to call between 2pm and 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST), except on public holidays.

Support lines:

  • Italian - 1800 549 844

  • Greek - 1800 549 845 

  • Vietnamese - 1800 549 846

  • Mandarin - 1800 549 847

  • Cantonese - 1800 549 848

  • Arabic - 1800 549 849

To find out more about the Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Lines, visit the PICAC Alliance website.

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