Victorian government urged to prioritise vulnerable CALD communities amid coronavirus outbreak

A letter, signed by 30 multicultural advocacy groups, sets out seven recommendations, including the need for a greater response to pandemic-related racism.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews implores Victorians to stay at home.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Source: AAP

A group of 30 multicultural organisations have signed an open letter calling on the Victorian government to ramp up its coronavirus measures for culturally and linguistically diverse residents, who they say are more vulnerable to the pandemic.

The letter, addressed to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, outlines seven recommendations, including the need for a greater response to pandemic-related racist incidents and the creation of a CALD taskforce.

It also calls for certainty around funding for multicultural organisations so they can "meet the health, economic, and civic needs" of their communities, for SBS to named an emergency broadcaster and additional funding to support vulnerable CALD groups.

"These actions reflect a wide range of inputs from multiple service providers and regions across Victoria. It would be good for the state government to take on these concerns and respond accordingly," said chairperson of the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria Eddie Micallef.

Last week, SBS News revealed that the Australian Human Rights Commission had received a spike in racial discrimination complaints since the virus was discovered at the end of last year.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said February had the highest number of complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act so far during this financial year, with 32 per cent of those complaints related to COVID-19.

A survey tracking anti-Asian abuse during the pandemic has also received more than 170 responses in its first few weeks.

"The rise in reported incidents of racism as a consequence of COVID-19, namely against Asian-Australians, is alarming," the letter read.

"We take pride in Victoria being a world leader in multiculturalism and to this end, we expect a continuing strong commitment from all our political leaders on the issue of social cohesion."

Concerns have also been raised over the challenges new migrants and non-English speaking families will face as schools across the country move towards online learning.

The chief executive of the Centre for Multicultural Youth, Carmel Guerra, said many young people from refugee or migrant backgrounds face socio-economic disadvantage that put them at risk of "digital exclusion".

"In the current health emergency of COVID-19, this vulnerability is exacerbated and must be addressed immediately, as essential services such as education and health shift online," she said.

SBS, which is a government-funded broadcaster and the publisher of this website, has launched a multilingual portal to provide COVID-19 information in 63 languages.

The federal government has also translated coronavirus resources into a number of languages.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at

Published 20 April 2020 at 8:15pm, updated 20 April 2020 at 8:18pm
By SBS News