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Coronavirus advice in Pacific Islander languages was only published four days ago, raising questions about government efforts to inform non-English speaking communities about the pandemic.
Members of Melbourne's Pacific Islander community, many of whom reside in the council hotspot of Brimbank, have felt frustrated by the lack of information in native languages and have been requesting it for months.
The Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that coronavirus information in Pacific Island languages, such as Tongan, Samoan and Cook Islands Maori, was first published on 20 June.
“There was nothing,” Pasifika Community Organisation president Tonya Helu told AAP.
“We felt discriminated ... we didn't have anything."”
Helu, a Tongan translator, said she first approached her local Wyndham City Council in April about the absence of government health information in her native Tongan tongue.
She then contacted local state MP Sarah Connolly in May and again on 11 June.
Pacific Islander community members have been contacting her in search of official health information they could read. She and others have been frustrated by the lack of information, particularly for older people who cannot read English well.
Helu only learned of the information in Tongan becoming available on the DHHS website on Wednesday.
Her state electorate of Tarneit borders the Brimbank council area.
There are 141 active cases mainly in the Melbourne area and six councils: Brimbank, Casey, Cardinia, Darebin, Hume and Moreland.
Community engagement in the identified local government areas has been ramped up, including doorknocking, after they were identified as coronavirus hotspots.
The areas consist of large migrant populations, with many speaking languages other than English at home.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said engaging with linguistically diverse communities required community leaders to champion the message.
Information about the virus has been translated into 55 languages, but Health Minister Jenny Mikakos conceded people in the hotspots may not engage with traditional media.
Connolly has been contacted for comment.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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