Date issued: February 24, 2021

The work of Bendigo Community Health Services in supporting refugee communities through the Coronavirus pandemic has been recognised with a national award.

Federal Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke MP announced the BCHS Coronavirus Refugee Resource Hub as the winner of the SETS Settlement innovation category of the Australian Migration and Settlement Awards during a virtual ceremony last night.

The award recognised the work our Settlement Services and Cultural Diversity teams have done in keeping refugee communities safe for the past 11 months through an online Coronavirus Refugee Resource Hub, supporting partner agencies and business, free Coronavirus Telephone Hotline and anti-racism campaign with Victoria Police and Believe In Bendigo.

The hub's translated videos and information sheets have not only helped the Bendigo community but been extensively used by organisations in the Wimmera and even shared to families and friends across the world.

Bendigo Community Health Services staff member Zahir Azimi was a short-listed finalist in the Case Worker of the Year Award for his work with the Afghan community in Bendigo.

BCHS Cultural Diversity and Relationships team manager Kaye Graves said the organisation was very proud the work being done in Bendigo to support refugee communities was recognised in two of the three national awards presented last night.

"Our commitment and dedication to supporting the health and wellbeing of refugee communities in Bendigo drives the work we do," Ms Graves said.

"We spend a lot of time consulting with the community to find out the real needs and then co-designing with community and our bilingual staff to develop resources and information to meet those needs. We've learned that simple and clear messaging is essential in giving our refugee communities what they need to stay informed and safe during times such as this Coronavirus pandemic.

"We learned that trust and speaking to someone directly was important to the refugee community so we launched the free Karen Coronavirus Telephone Hotline so our Karen staff could answer questions directly in Karen language.

"Our staff supported businesses such as KR Castlemaine and Hazeldene's Chicken Farm to ensure their staff were aware of important information during outbreaks and worked with valued partners such as Bendigo Health to help raise awareness around testing clinics and the testing procedure.

"And when we heard of reports of Coronavirus-related abuse in Bendigo we quickly worked with Victoria Police Inspector Shane Brundell and Believe In Bendigo to make a video that raised awareness about this behaviour, why it's not acceptable and how to report incidents to police. We distributed more than 3000 Everybody's Welcome yellow bin stickers across Bendigo to show community support."

Ms Graves said the Settlement team continued to make regular contact with refugee clients to check on their welfare."The dedication to their community and growth in skills and confidence of our staff during this Coronavirus time has been inspiring. It's been amazing to watch and they should all be very proud of what's been achieved," she said.

"Our work continues. We are still creating information around Coronavirus as the landscape changes and will now focus on vaccine support. We have also launched a Bushfire and Summer Safety Resource Hub to keep refugee communities informed and safe around fire, floods and heat health.

"We are also continuing our work to educate around other important issues such as a new Gambling Awareness campaign, Hepatitis education campaign and NDIS awareness. We are committed to making sure our refugee communities not only feel welcome and safe in Bendigo but well cared for though their life journey. It's important to our community and important for Bendigo."

To visit our award-winning Coronavirus Refugee Resource Hub click here


Media contact

Rod Case

Communications and Community Engagement

Bendigo Community Health Services

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(03) 5406 1229