Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire recently for how his administration has handled Australia’s efforts to translate COVID-19 messages and properly notify the country’s multilingual communities.
The criticism follows a new wave of COVID-19 cases that occurred in central Melbourne, where 3,000 residents among nine public housing high rise towers have been placed under a hard quarantine.
Responding to the news of the spike in cases, Australian Parliamentary member Andrew Giles tweeted, “When it comes to public health information, we can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. In a multicultural society, we have to communicate effectively to the diversity of our communities — and we have to empower CALD communities when it comes to getting the right messages out.”
CALD refers to Australia’s “Culturally and linguistically diverse populations,” which it defines as people “who were born overseas, have a parent who was born overseas or speaks a variety of languages.”
While the Australian Department of Health’s website has dedicated a portion of its website to provide language resources and posted periodical updates since May, it is not clear how accessible the predominantly English website has been to people who speak English as a foreign language. Many issues can arise in the language localization process, including the target reader completely missing out on the information.
Giles, along with other members of parliament, are calling on the prime minister to address the system’s lack of resources for its multilingual communities by funding a $500,000 measure that will go toward resources to translate and distribute “COVID-19 newsletters, publications, signage, websites, advertisements, brochures, video, radio, and public service announcements from existing official information services,” as well as prove $5,000 to eligible community leaders to engage with their communities and spread the latest information.
With a population in Victoria alone of approximately 1.5 million speakers of languages other than English, 17% of whom have a low proficiency in English, the state, its capital of Melbourne, and the larger Australian government have a significant task ahead of them to reach its citizens and quell the recent spread of the virus.