Jun 25, 2020, 14:00 PM
A flood of lifesaving information in 60 different languages is rolling across Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs, as the Victorian Government ramps up its mission to make sure no one is left behind in the campaign to stave off a second wave of COVID-19.
Thousands of people from some of Victoria’s newest ethnic communities are being targeted in the campaign of door-knocking by 100 Citywide employees, which began this week in Hallam and Pakenham – two of 10 suburbs named by the Government as community transmission ‘hotspots’.
“It’s quite surprising how many people still know very little about the virus,” says Citywide operations supervisor Jordan Lakin. “We’re receiving a lot of appreciation from these communities – particularly from older people, who are really keen to get more information to protect themselves.”
That information ranges from tips on personal hygiene and social distancing, to the use of the COVIDSafe app and the Coronavirus Hotline, details of symptoms and what to do if you feel unwell, and the locations and logistics of local testing clinics.
“We basically start a conversation about what people know about coronavirus, and then move on to what they don’t know, or any questions they may have,” says Jordan.
A natural extension
Citywide was selected to manage the doorknocking teams after the company’s widely-lauded success in appointing 1,700 staff to the cleaning and sanitation crews operating under the Working for Victoria Fund since early April.
Like the street cleaners, the doorknockers work in teams of five under a team leader, who carries an iPad linking them directly with the Department of Health and Human Services – from where they can source detailed health information if they need it. The leaders also log anonymous data from their ‘doorstep conversations’ to help the Department fine-tune its health messaging.
On Wednesday and Thursday, 50 doorknockers reached an estimated 1,100 households each day in Hallam, and Citywide aims to double this daily tally with 100 doorknockers operating across Pakenham and neighbouring suburbs this weekend.
The company is also providing comprehensive inductions to its teams – many of whom have extensive community relations expertise from former engagement roles with Metro Trains.
Jordan Lakin estimates the first 50 doorknockers hired by Citywide can speak nearly 40 different languages – with many more accessible online. “We’ve also got a QR scanner that provides access to commonly requested information on COVID in 60 different languages – which we can also send directly to a person’s phone.”
For Carlos Jirjees, a 36-year-old Iraqi-Australian, being part of a team that speaks six languages has seen him welcomed by numerous households where English is the second language.
“I speak Arabic and Assyrian, and there are also Urdu and Hindi speakers on my team,” says Carlos. “Plus we now have iPads, so we can immediately call the DHHS or get phrases translated for us into any language.”
But while Carlos says he feels he’s making a difference, he still sees evidence of people “not taking the virus seriously”.
“I’ve seen people getting tested and afterwards going straight to the shopping centre for a coffee, which is really wrong,” he says. “Apart from answering people’s questions, our main goal is to encourage them to stay at home and stay safe. We can beat this virus – but only if we observe social distancing and keep doing what’s right.”
Sophie Slatter, who was visited by a Citywide team at her home in Officer, said it was a timely reminder of the need to “do the right thing”.
“People have been taking it easy, but the virus is coming back and it’s serious and we all need to do what we can to stop it,” she said.
“I think it’s fantastic to be reaching out to people from different communities who may not have someone in their house who can listen to the news or get information from school. It’s great that they can get some reliable information this way.”
DHHS hotline: 1800 675 398
How to stay safe: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/how-stay-safe-and-well-covid-19
Simon Mossman - Group Corporate Communications
M 0427 307 216