A new phone line is providing tailored coronavirus information for older Australians in six languages

The Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line is available in six languages: Greek, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Italian.

A flyer advertising the Mandarin Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line.

A flyer advertising the Mandarin Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line. Source: Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing

Older Australians can now call a new phone line for free tailored coronavirus information in six languages other than English.

The Multilingual Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line - set up by the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing (CCDA) and funded by the federal Department of Health - offers assistance in Greek, Arabic, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Italian. 

The program will run until 31 July and also allow callers to access in-language information about aged care and dementia. 

Callers are greeted straight away in-language, then triaged by the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre and directed to multilingual guidance from the government’s existing English Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line

CCDA manager Lisa Tribuzio said takeup of the existing line has been low among non-English speakers.

“We found that it had extremely low usage from older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD), their families and carers,” she told SBS News. 

“So we advocated to the Department of Health [and] we are grateful for their support and their acknowledgement that we need a flexible program model.”

Ms Tribuzio said while much health advice has been translated into languages other than English during the pandemic, some older people from CALD backgrounds have been left confused by how to find the specific information they need.

She also said research from the aged care sector has shown not everyone in Australia likes getting information from the internet.

“Older people have said that they prefer the good old-fashioned phone as a way of getting information,” she said.

“Plus, they want information from trusted people and that the internet, when they can get access to information on the internet, is not the most effective way, because they have language barriers and not everyone can access technology.”

Spectrum CEO Bernie Nott said the centre has witnessed first-hand the anxiety that people from CALD backgrounds have experienced during the pandemic.

“This support line helps to address that, and also provide a new innovative platform that can now be adapted to any service type to create more inclusive and accessible services for all CALD communities,” he said.

The support lines can be contacted Monday to Friday between 2pm and 5pm AEST, except on public holidays: Italian (1800 549 844), Greek (1800 549 845), Vietnamese (1800 549 846), Mandarin (1800 549 847), Cantonese (1800 549 848), Arabic (1800 549 849).

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.


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Published 12 February 2021 at 7:28pm
By Evan Young, Marcus Megalokonomos