Helping seniors in hard-to-reach communities understand COVID-19

A new report from National Seniors highlights the importance of pandemic health information for seniors in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Key Points

  • A program was created to provide information on COVID-19 to seniors in culturally and linguistically diverse communities 

  • The program assisted 2,000 members of CALD communities  

  • The success of the ‘Assertive COVID-19 outreach into new and emerging CALD communities’ program has been evaluated in a new report called ‘All Australians care’ 

Imagine you’ve migrated to Australia. You may not have much formal education. You don’t speak the native language well and have come from a country where you may have been persecuted by your government. Where do you go for information about COVID-19 and who do you trust?  

This is the dilemma faced by many people in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in Australia, who rely heavily on support from their families and communities to overcome language, cultural and educational barriers. Many have been cut off from their usual support networks because of COVID-19 and have become even more vulnerable as a result.  

A joint program between National Seniors, the Federal Department of Health, and Australian Unity was established to help address this exact challenge – conducting COVID-19 outreach within new and emerging CALD communities. 

The results of the program have been detailed in a new report from National Seniors and Australian Unity.  

How it worked

The program concentrated on two key aims. The first was to communicate the importance of minimising the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing, quarantining, vaccination and contact tracing. The second was to provide seniors with mental health and emotional support, and referrals to other agencies for further assistance. 

By building trust and establishing direct interpersonal support relationships with older Australians from diverse backgrounds, the program helped promote and share advice on COVID-19. During the six-month program, over 2,000 members of the Filipino, Afghan, Burmese Chin and Spanish-speaking communities in Melbourne, and the Cambodian and Arabic-speaking communities in Sydney were contacted and provided with support and advice.  

Download report

National Seniors Australia Chief Executive Officer, Professor John McCallum, describes the program as a great achievement for all involved. 

“We established a network of Community Liaison Officers who were already active members of these communities to disseminate important health information to older community members.” 

“Our network was able to do this with limited resources and on a limited budget,” Professor McCallum said. 

Chief Executive Officer of Independent and Assisted Living at Australian Unity, Kevin McCoy, said, “We wanted to provide emotional support for seniors experiencing isolation and loneliness, while helping seniors access aged care and other support services, including medical, wellbeing and household supports.” 

Mr McCoy said Australian Unity has a proud track record of supporting new and emerging CALD communities to keep their seniors connected with essential services.  

“With a significant proportion of Australia’s population born overseas, we really are a diverse and multicultural society, where the need for culturally appropriate support is high.”