Value strength, build resilience

Joint VCOSS-ECCV research paper

This report is drawn from the insights and experiences of the Multicultural Emergency Management Partnership (MEMP).

It highlights the critical importance of strong connections and engagement between multicultural communities, government and the emergency management sector, and makes recommendations to enhance how this occurs.

It also recommends how the emergency management sector can become more diverse and inclusive, placing it in a better position to support all Victorians.  

Two things are certain to happen in our near future. Climate change will demand increased community resilience and Victoria will become more culturally diverse.

It is therefore imperative multicultural communities are prepared for emergencies and disasters, and supported to respond and recover according to their specific contexts and needs.  

Valuing strengths, building resilience: Improving emergency management outcomes for multicultural communities in Victoria provides a blueprint to achieve this.


Veema Mooniapah: COVID exacerbated the gaps, which could have been existing, but it exacerbated, brought to light, you know, major challenges.

Thuch Ajak: There was no consultation on how best can the community be engaged into this.

Andrew Crisp: We probably didn’t have the strength of those partnerships. Early days in COVID.

Veema: They were really facing the other side of government interventions where they felt their voice was not heard.

Thuch: Take, for instance, what happened during in Kensington and North Melbourne.

TV newsreader: Good evening. The sudden lockdown of thousands of public housing tower residents is under fire with social services left scrambling.

Thuch: The community didn’t have a chance, you know, to have a say on how best can, would have been controlled.

Veema: I think not bringing their voice into a solution that was meant for them. That is the biggest thing that triggered for me to be able to step into this space.

Andrew: Definitely lessons are learnings but as we know, they’re only lessons, heaven forbid we have the same situation occur again in the future that we have actually learned from those lessons.

Veema: People from multicultural background, they are, they have different experiences. They have different perceptions, as well. They have different approach to things. It doesn’t mean multicultural equals to dumb. They have strength and it’s important, so important for people to recognise that.

Lucy: I think the challenge that we’re really trying to solve is around creating safer, more resilient communities and higher performing emergency services at the same time.

Thuch: So during those periods, that’s when ECCV, VCOSS and the rest of the other players reach out to the multicultural community members of which I am one of the community leaders.

Andrew: It’s about building relationships, structures and processes in peacetime in the event that if something were to occur, you’ve actually, you know, you’ve got those solid relationships, you’ve got those networks, you know what you’re going to be doing.

Lucy: The multicultural partnership does really important work because it puts the community really at the center of everything that’s being done.

Andrew: It’s about how do you involve community in the decision making?

Veema: Authentic co-design is bringing the people along with you on this journey. Not at the end or as an ad hoc solution.

Andrew: It’s really interesting when it when it’s about we talk about emergency management, emergency services, you know, we’re problem solvers, you know, give us a problem you know, we want to fix it and we want to move on it. So you know, we need at times to sort of take a breath and to to step back and go through more of that planning process and it’s a bit it’s you know, it’s more about the listening.

Veema: Just bring them in and give them a seat at the table. Here is a problem, a challenge. How do you think that will work with you guys? Because you know your community’s best.

Lucy: As a model, what’s unique about the Multicultural EM Partnership is that it connects agencies who are experts in their field with other groups who are experts in their field. For example, groups who are experts in cultural and linguistic information sharing or communities who are from specific countries, or new migrant groups.

Andrew: You get together, you know, you learn from each other, emergency services and community.

Thuch: It’s a mutual kind of benefit between the two, the emergency agencies and also the community.

Lucy: We’re getting the best minds in the room, and that’s something that recognises, again, that strengths based approach to how we can work collaboratively to get the best outcomes for the community.

Veema: There was so much good work. We developed the, you know, the resources and the, you know, the training for community leaders and everything. They were so powerful and so popular, so people felt, including myself, that we are moving in the right direction with smart actions.

Thuch: Nowadays, we have monthly meetings where we sit and listen from all across the board and work to implement those priorities that are developed.

Veema: I can see they’re coming up with strategies I can see they are they have identified the need to have diversity, equity and inclusion within their workforce.

Andrew: For me, it is about, you know, it’s what you do in peace time. And that’s what we need to continue to do because we’re talking about COVID. You know, what potentially could be the next impact on multicultural, multi-faith communities?

Veema: Tomorrow there’ll be other pandemics, there’ll be floods, fire, there could be other forms of emergency.

Thuch: We are looking at, you know, MEMP as a model, a model that can be replicated you can do it at your local CFA or your local LGAs.

Veema: It’s not just we do that, we pilot that we finish, but that potential to continue.

Andrew: So it does take time to build those relationships, to develop the trust, to ensure you’re really understanding what those challenges and opportunities are.

Veema: If they can replicate this model, and of course tweak it to their specific needs It has to work.

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