Improving Emergency Communications for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in the Illawarra
Emergency communication in a predominant language (English in Australia) can be problematic in highly multicultural societies where cultural and linguistic differences often pose significant distortions to the way messages are interpreted. Working in collaboration and partnership with the NSW State Emergency Services (SES) and the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI), this project aims to facilitate tailored messaging and emergency warnings in languages that are best understood by culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in the Illawarra region. The project will use the functional language theory to explore the diversity of ways in which translated messages can be organised, including the literal and contextualised forms of translations as well as the implications they have for soliciting appropriate actions from community members. The project team will identify several multilingual representatives from the top 7 CALD groups in the Illawarra (i.e., Macedonian, Italian, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, Serbian, and Greek) who can be empowered to act as intermediaries or gatekeepers to facilitate message translation and engender culturally appropriate communication between their communities and emergency agencies. These gatekeepers will help activate their community networks, enlisting members that should receive CALD-specific messages during emergencies.
Importantly, CALD communities will identify through surveys and interviews, the most suitable communication channel(s) (e.g., social media, dedicated mobile App, bulk SMS, local radio, etc.) for receiving these translated emergency messages. The project scope is such that the message translation will initially focus on the static messages, which do not change from one event to another (e.g., “Never drive on flooded roads”). In preparation for impending emergency events, these translated messages can be used by SES to drive behavioural change and risk awareness amongst CALD groups, thereby helping to deliver safer and more resilient communities. UOW is proud to have initiated this community engagement project, which will deliver tangible benefits to vulnerable groups in the Illawarra region, further establishing the University as a leading institution in enabling disaster resilience within communities.
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