Labor calls for $500,000 coronavirus communications campaign to get message to migrants

The opposition is calling on the government to spend $500,000 on coronavirus communications targeting multicultural communities.

Deputy Labor Leader in the Senate Kristina Keneally speaking at a media conference in Sydney, Saturday, March 21, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley) NO ARCHIVING

Deputy Labor Leader in the Senate Kristina Keneally. Source: AAP

The federal Labor party is calling on the government to establish a $500,000 fund saying that it is needed to ensure no one is left behind during the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor spokesperson for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally, Multicultural Affairs spokesperson Andrew Giles and backbencher Dr Anne Aly called for the government to ensure multicultural communities were getting vital information.

“Labor has been raising concerns about COVID-19 communications with CALD communities since March and it is clear that the Morrison Government could and should have been doing more to engage with Australia’s modern multicultural society,” the statement read.


“We must ensure no one is left behind during this ongoing pandemic, a virus does not check someone’s cultural background before it infects them,” it added.

Under the opposition’s plan, up to $5000 would be made available to eligible providers and community leaders to break communication barriers, provide translations and build resilience and improved engagement with emerging CALD communities.

“This means more resources to translate and print COVID-19 newsletters, publications, signage, websites, advertisements, brochures, video, radio and public service announcements from existing official information services,” the statement said.

“This is a difficult time for all Australians and it’s essential everyone knows how to look after themselves and those around them,” it added.

The call comes amidst ongoing concerns about the spread of coronavirus in Victoria where cases have spiked in hotspot suburbs.

Many of the suburbs under postcode-based lockdowns in the north and west or Melbourne are communities with high numbers of residents from multicultural and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Last month Health Minister Greg Hunt dismissed reports that the government wasn’t doing enough to engage with multicultural communities.

Mr Hunt said the government has consistently been in “direct community engagement” with migrant communities and had translated fact sheets and broadcasts into many languages other than English.

“Since the outset, we have set out to work with communities of different languages, or communities of diverse language and ethnic origin.”

There has been some criticism of the government for not initially translating the COVID-Safe tracing app, which was finally translated into four different languages last week.

An SBS News report from last month found that in suburbs of western Sydney with high numbers of residents with non-English speaking backgrounds, there was little or no official signage about coronavirus available in languages other than English.

A researcher instead found ad-hoc information in various languages not from official sources.

In a bid to make it easier for businesses to access resources, SBS has  into a number of languages including Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese. 

These posters and resources can be downloaded for use in shops and offices.

The  has also been used to distribute in-language material throughout the pandemic.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’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

3 min read
Published 7 July 2020 at 5:41am
By Jarni Blakkarly