Effort aimed at getting new arrivals summer ready

December 26, 2023 BY

Preparedness: Bendigo Community Health Services’ settlement services staff Nido and Christina with CFA community liaison bushfire engagement presenter Sue Bell. Photo: SUPPLIED

WITH a drier summer now here, staff at Bendigo Community Health Services are seeking to help multicultural communities prepare for more intense bushfires.

BCHS resources written in various languages are being handed out to multicultural groups in the region in order to get them more knowledgeable about what could be in store for them as part of an Australian bushfire.

BCHS cultural diversity leader Kaye Graves said the service’s emergency preparedness program is especially for newer residents.

“People who are new to our region are really worried about fire, heat, and flood events,” she said.

“There is real fear. They need a tailored, targeted approach to living safely in central Victoria.”

Information sessions, community training, and resources in the Dinka, Karen, and Dari languages have been developed over the past four years as part of BCHS’ emergency preparedness program.

In keeping the initiative up to date, BCHS staff collaborates with the Country Fire Authority, the State Emergency Service, and the City of Greater Bendigo.

“The program is led by our staff of refugee lived experience, which is an important element,” Ms Graves said. “We know it’s culturally safe, and we know it works.”

“It’s really important to have VICSES, CFA and the City of Greater Bendigo council involved because they make sure the content is correct, and we make sure it’s easily understood.

“It’s also about building the capacity of our emergency services to understand the pre-and-post settlement experience of people, the challenges they face in Australia, and how best to help them in an emergency situation.”

According to Ms Graves, new arrivals to Australia are made vulnerable due to their lack of awareness around the country’s extreme weather events.

BCHS’ emergency preparedness videos were viewed online by more than 5000 people in 2023, and 1000 attendees were present at the service’s information sessions held this year.