South Sudanese community leader Ring Mayar has slammed the Andrews government’s ‘box ticking’ coronavirus information for ethnic communities, which is written in a tribal language many cannot read
African community leaders in Melbourne have slammed authorities for producing coronavirus health advice in a tribal language few people can actually read – instead of coming to talk to them.
It comes amid escalating fears a ‘second wave’ has arrived in Victoria’s capital and is striking suburbs with big populations of overseas migrants and refugees.
Community sources said state and Federal governments have translated their COVID-19 health advice into the Dinka language for the state’s South Sudanese population.
But while Dinka is a popular language, many migrants – especially women – can’t read it as they weren’t allowed to go to school.
‘No one is able to read them,’ said David Wani, the secretary-general of the Federation of Equatoria Community Association.
‘It doesn’t have to look like a box-ticking exercise,’ said Ring Mayar, the president of the South Sudanese Community Association in Victoria, who said the community was being ‘gravely neglected’.
Both the Victorian and Federal governments are under growing criticism they did not do enough to stop the sudden clusters springing up in migrant communities in Melbourne’s suburbs.
One of the biggest family clusters involves 14 people who are believed to have contracted the virus at an end-of-Ramadan celebration in Coburg, in the city’s north, last month.
A local woman wears a mask in Coburg on Thursday – the site of a new coronavirus cluster, apparently following an Eid feast celebrating the end of Ramadan at the end of May
There have been reports of a return to panic-buying of toilet paper in Melbourne supermarkets as a result of the fresh outbreaks (left). Another Coburg local, on right, wears a protective face mask
The Coburg Islamic Centre (above) has been strictly practising social distancing (door conditions on left, and hand sanitiser on right) and were unaware of reports of a cluster from an Eid feast in the same suburb. The mosque is not related to the cluster
The development has sparked alarm at local mosques with a spokesman for the Coburg Islamic Centre saying the spike in cases locally was ‘very worrying’.
The centre requires all worshippers to socially distance, bring their own mats and only pray for 10 minutes at a time, the spokesman said.
The mosque was unaware of the nearby cluster before the Daily Mail called, and is not related to it.
MELBOURNE CORONA OUTBREAK: THE LATEST
Thirty-three Victorians tested positive in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday – the biggest spike in months following on from daily double digit surges.
Seven were returned travellers, nine were linked to known outbreaks, six discovered in routine testing and 11 remain under investigation.
Premier Daniel Andrews said his government has launched a suburban testing blitz, with 50 per cent of Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs, the two suburbs with the highest number of community transmission cases, to be tested in the next three days.
Tests will then move on to the suburbs of Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham.
‘The (prayer) mats are two metres apart, they bring them from home and take it with them once they’ve prayed on it. That’s when we disinfect,’ the spokesman said.
But the messages about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus aren’t getting through to others.
The National Health and Research Advisory Committee, an expert panel monitoring the nation’s response to the virus, told the Federal Government last month there had been a ‘missed opportunity’ to work with high-risk migrant groups.
And South Sudanese community leaders Mr Wani and Mr Mayar have given a stunning example of what is going wrong in the suburbs.
Mr Wani told Daily Mail Australia governments have shared COVID-19 pamphlets written in the Dinka language with the South Sudanese community.
But while many migrants speak the language, they are also illiterate and can’t read the language.
‘A lot of the community they are actually not literate – especially the woman. a lot of the women migrated as single mothers,’ he said.
Many female migrants were banned from going to school during their youth in South Sudan and therefore cannot read the messages.
Mr Wani said: ‘They (the authorities) are only using one language which is the Dinka language, which is only one language spoken in South Sudan, which has 64 tribes.
‘And the translations the are actually making in Dinka, a lot of the people who speak Dinka here cannot read Dinka at all. No one is able to read them’.
Mr Mayar, the president of the South Sudanese Community Association in Victoria, said his community was being ‘neglected’ by governments in the fight against COVID-19.
Ring Mayar, the chairman of the South Sudanese Community Association in Victoria, with that state’s premier Daniel Andrews, says the government’s efforts were just a ‘box ticking’ exercise
An example of the Dinka language coronavirus health advice on the
A COVID-emergency drive through testing centre at the Melbourne show grounds was crammed with cars today as the Premier announced a testing blitz
The suburbs of Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs are the target of the Victorian government’s new testing surge
He criticised the government’s online resources as ‘box-ticking’ and said basic messages about avoiding large gatherings are not getting through.
VICTORIA’S SPIKE IN CORONAVIRUS CASES
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
Mr Mayar explained: ‘There was a young man stabbed two days ago, nearby.
‘Culturally, there’s no way we can just call each other and say, “I’m sorry about what has happened.” We don’t operate that way.
‘You would see the entire community converge on that house and comfort that family.
‘That is my worry here – you’d see people turn up in huge numbers and we’re not given that authority by the state government to say, no, don’t gather in huge numbers’.
Mr Mayar said governments need to ‘talk to people at their level’ instead and empower leaders in the community like him to drill messages home.
Daily Mail Australia approached Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services for comment, but the agency did not respond by deadline.
The department has announced it is establishing ‘Community Engagement Teams’ to ‘intensify’ the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
104 Australians have died in total as a result of COVID-19 infections, with the death toll rising by two this week – after a month of zero deaths.