Call for 'national voice' to improve healthcare for multicultural communities

The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia is forming a new body to provide advice on accessing health care for people from diverse backgrounds.

A man is seen receiving a Covid vaccine at a pop-up drive through vaccination clinic at Belmore Oval, in Sydney.

A man is seen receiving a Covid vaccine at a pop-up drive through vaccination clinic at Belmore Oval, in Sydney. Source: AAP

A national body to advise on health care for multicultural communities is being established following concerns over failings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) says its proposed Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative is needed to improve access to and equity of health care.

The federation's CEO Mohommad Al-Khafaji said the COVID-19 response in Australia had highlighted inequalities and disparities experienced by multicultural communities.

“We’ve seen the need for a greater voice at a national level to advocate on culturally and linguistically diverse communities and multicultural health,” he told SBS News.

“We’ve seen what the pandemic has done for our communities and the vulnerabilities around that.” 

FECCA CEO Mohammad Al-Khafaji speaks with SBS News.
Source: SBS News

Areas in western and south-western Sydney that have high numbers of people born overseas have been at the centre of New South Wales' COVID-19 crisis.

A similar trend has been seen in Melbourne’s most recent outbreak, with a high concentration of cases in the city's north and western suburbs. 

Multicultural and interfaith leaders have been at the forefront of attempts to combat misinformation and encourage vaccination in their communities. 

The federal government established a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities COVID-19 health advisory group late last year to help coordinate the response.

But concerns have been raised over shortfalls in communication between federal and state governments and diverse community groups.

This has included translation errors in COVID-19 public health messaging and the delayed translation of advice on vaccines. 

FECCA is seeking feedback from healthcare providers, researchers and community groups to create a framework for its proposed health-advisory body.

Mr Al-Khafaji said the CALD health advisory group had proved to be a successful model - one that he is hoping can be replicated more broadly through the proposed collaboration.

“At the moment we don’t have a national voice on multicultural health,” he said.

The new body’s aim would be to function in a similar way to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), which provides advice to the Australian government on health matters. 

Mr Al-Khafaji said the goal was to break down barriers to accessing health services experienced by people from multicultural communities.

“We see there is a greater challenge ahead of us beyond the pandemic,” he said.

“We know what we can achieve if we work together."

Published 23 September 2021 at 6:11pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS News