Communicating with senior Australians of diverse backgrounds – this is HOW you do it!

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Information about the aged care system in Australia and the services that are available can be difficult to obtain and complex to understand for many older Australians. Understanding the aged care sector is made even more challenging for those who speak a language other than English.

Recognising this, the Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing set out to create an event that brought the services directly to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are starting to think about the years ahead as they age.

The Ageing in Australia: Cultural Diversity in Aged Care Expo was the result. It was held at the Melbourne Town Hall in November 2011, with over 30 exhibitors speaking to members of the public. With free entry, the Expo provided an opportunity for people to ask those questions they they’ve always wanted to know through interpreters provided by Polaron and to find out about services they simply didn’t know were available to them. Interpreters available included the languages of Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, Greek, Macedonian, Arabic, Croatian, Serbian, Turkish, Polish and Spanish, with an overwhelming majority of demand for interpreting services coming from people from Vietnamese backgrounds.

Over 400 people attended on the day, with a queue of about 100 people waiting outside the doors before it even began! We promoted the event and reached our target audience – people aged 50+ from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds –  through various channels including professional networks, community engagement and direct mail outs, but the most useful was the commissioning of an SBS Radio campaign in 11 different languages broadcast throughout Melbourne. The languages chosen were based on research and responsiveness, and the interpreters provided reflected the languages used.  We received many phone calls from members of the public in response to the ads, which provided us with a crash course in working with telephone interpreters! Language-specific information sessions were held throughout the day which provided a relaxed atmosphere to find out about aged care and ask questions in their language without feeling daunted.

The success of the event not only demonstrates the need for culturally and linguistically inclusive aged care services, but also the need for communication and an active awareness campaign informing people about the broad range of services in languages they can clearly understand. Enabling equity and access to information about aged care services for people from CALD backgrounds should not just be an important goal for organisations to achieve, but needs to be recognised as a human right.

We’re now in full swing for the organisation of the second Expo in April 2013, which is once again being supported by Polaron along with the City of Melbourne, the Victorian Department of Health and the Department of Health and Ageing. We are looking forward to working with many aged care service providers servicing Victoria and putting them in contact with communities they otherwise wouldn’t reach to produce a bigger and better Expo!


by guest blogger, Danyel Walker, Project Officer                                                                                                                         Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing

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