Supporting Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities to prepare for emergencies

Willoughby City Council

Connecting the Disaster Dots – helping CALD communities prepare for, deal with, and recover from emergencies

Research shows that culturally and linguistically diverse communities may be a particularly vulnerable part of Australian society in the context of emergencies, with a need to provide effective emergency education and information. 

Events throughout the 2019/20 NSW summer and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a lack of awareness among the general community in the Willoughby local government area (LGA) about how best to prepare for, and respond to, emergencies such as extreme heat, storms, power outages and disease outbreaks.

Willoughby is home to a highly culturally diverse community, including a high proportion of people born overseas and speaking a language other than English at home compared to Greater Sydney. In response to this, Willoughby City Council engaged Cred and Multicultural Marketing Management through a grant from Resilience NSW to evaluate the effectiveness of emergency preparedness materials in raising awareness in their culturally diverse community members – in particular, Chinese language speaking residents.

How we did it

Cred consulted broadly with CALD communities. (Source: Matthew Duchesne © FancyBoy Photography).

Our approach to the review of emergency materials was multi-faceted and focussed on seeking diverse perspectives from Willoughby LGA community members, including CALD and non-CALD residents. 

Cred worked with MMM and the Council team to consult broadly with CALD community members to understand their perceptions of local hazards, and the effectiveness of various government communications materials in reaching people in the community who may be more vulnerable – including seniors, people who are not fluent in English, people with disability, or people who may not have internet access or proficiency.

The engagement included a series of online and face-to-face focus groups (including in multiple community languages), an in-depth review of materials conducted by various cultural assessors from different cultural backgrounds, and interviews with expert stakeholders about their experiences in – and any lessons learned from – developing ‘all-hazard’ and specific hazard communication materials.

A suite of emergency-preparedness materials was co-designed and tested with the community; this included flyers, posters, fridge magnets and a video.

This project received a Commendation for Planning Research at the Planning Institute of Australia’s 2022 NSW Awards for Planning Excellence.

Willoughby City Council has published their emergency preparedness video here:

(Source: Willoughby City Council).