You would have heard by now, Access staff returned to working from home in response to the uncertainty surrounding the confirmed cases of COVID-19 detected in Logan recently.

We closed our offices for three weeks as a precautionary measure to prioritise the health and safety of Access’ staff and clients. I’m pleased to announce that Access will be returning to our offices on Monday 24th August.

I have said many times how impressed and proud I am of staff’s flexibility and adaptability during the office shutdowns – no challenge was too big for them, and they willingly stepped up to the plate for the sake of client and community health and safety. We are all looking forward to resuming service delivery from our office locations and are excited to see you. We will of course remain vigilant in adhering to all COVID-19 health and safety protocols for clients and staff – this remains our priority.   

Whilst shutdowns have their drawbacks to face-to-face connection, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on some positive aspects. With our “forced” pivot to online engagement we have been exposed to new and more flexible ways of working. Opportunities to incorporate online workshops, classes via videoconferencing and using social media to better reach our clients have been instrumental to respond quickly to community needs and enable more flexibility to fit in with client schedules. Where appropriate, we’ll be incorporating more online approaches into our communications, programs and services moving forward.

In relation to the recent situation in Logan, I am incredibly disappointed to see it being used as an excuse to fuel racist and anti-immigration sentiment. Those of our staff and clients who are members of the African community have sadly experienced some of this discrimination first hand.

This follows the commentary on both social and traditional media that came after the devastating outbreak in Melbourne, suggesting migrant communities were to blame for the second wave.

This kind of discourse is alienating and hurtful towards our culturally and linguistically diverse communities; communities who contribute so much to our society, and who are often the most vulnerable and hardest hit by situations in which they have no control.

A global pandemic of this scale is something none of us have experienced before. We are still uncertain about what the world looks like now, and how to navigate this period as we await a vaccine. It the responsibility of all of us, not just those from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, to continue to act with caution and vigilance so we can manage this virus.

There will be people who break the law and flout restrictions, which is frustrating and disappointing. But race and ethnicity should have no factor in how these people are treated or blamed by the media or the public, and certainly should not influence peoples’ judgements on CALD communities on the whole.

CALD communities are not to blame for these recent spikes in numbers – in fact new research presented by our parent organisation Settlement Services International (SSI) debunks the rhetoric that people from migrant backgrounds did not have adequate access to COVID-related information, with research indicating that CALD communities did in fact disseminate information down to their respective communities and  took the pandemic very seriously.

We were fortunate enough that Queensland Health created resources in more than 35 languages, and we also utilised SBS in-language resources, which we shared across our communities. The role of local Government leadership such as the Logan City Council was also pivotal in providing community cohesion in times of crisis.  Our Community Engagement team  worked hard with the Ethnic Community Council of Queensland (ECCC) and community leaders, hosting forums to ensure this information was understood and disseminated to their communities – you can read more about this below in our newsletter. Our Marketing and Community Engagement teams have also been working with community leaders to create our own in-language resources with COVID-safe messaging.

The research also revealed that CALD community leaders emphasised the need to be kept up to date with ongoing COVID-19 changes, especially around policy, health, travel, support and wellbeing.

Access encourages and wants to work alongside government and organisations like SSI, to always ensure there is effective communication and resources for CALD communities in times of crisis. We recognise that these responses need to be tailored; it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We owe it to the communities we represent to remain consistent in delivering this tailored information.

This should be the key focus – not an ill-placed blame game – to work together with government and all those committed to the multicultural sector, to continue to finesse and strengthen our resources so that no one gets left behind, or scapegoated.

We have said before, we’re in this together. We shouldn’t do ourselves a disservice by focusing on issues that will polarise rather than harmonise, during these challenging times.

Gail Ker
Access Community Services