Protected, unafraid and confident to resume normal life are just some ways older Australian migrants felt about being vaccinated against COVID, according to interviews with members of the multicultural community.
Home care provider Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) interviewed 15 community members on what measures they took to stay safe from COVID, and their responses to Australia’s national vaccine rollout.
Supported by the Victorian State Government, the workshops were part of a multicultural community outreach program about COVID safety during the pandemic.
Overall, interviewees said they trusted the health advice given about COVID vaccines. Despite hearing negative opinions about vaccination within their communities, they were confident in their decision to be vaccinated, with their doctor and scientists playing a key role in their decision.
Some expressed fears for relatives living in countries with high COVID mortality rates, such as Italy and Pakistan, and a sense of helplessness from living far away from loved ones.
Other interviewees reported fears about the side-effects of vaccines from their community, although this didn’t stop them from getting vaccinated.
“There were serious doubts [about getting vaccinated] because some people had died after receiving it,” said Indu Madhavan.
“I did have some fears about how I was going to react to it, but I had courage and faith that I would be safe if I got vaccinated, so I had all three doses.”
Many interviewees believed vaccination enabled them to resume a normal life, though with precautions.
“I can take my mask off and get in touch with everyone again,” said Sawsan Saleh.
“I have a church community that I meet with twice a month, and I’m not afraid. [The vaccine] means we are safer and the world will be as it was before.”
Some members of the community, though, only got vaccinated because it was mandatory in certain situations.
“Everyone was getting banned to places – you couldn’t get in without a vaccination,” said Priscilla Souza.
“My work required a vaccination, that was the only reason I had it. If it wasn’t mandatory, I don’t believe I would.”
Culturally inclusive COVID care
As Australia becomes increasingly diverse, the need for inclusive health and aged care support has grown, especially during the pandemic.
According to the 2016 ABS Census, one in three Australians aged 65 and over were born in another country, while 18% speak a language other than English at home. Many experience barriers to accessing aged care, such as not speaking English, or the cultural appropriateness of services.
It’s also common for people living with dementia to revert back to their native language as their short-term memory diminishes, leaving them unable to communicate with carers and even loved ones.
AMCS’ focus with this initiative is to cater for people with multicultural backgrounds and to provide them with COVID safety information.
Throughout the pandemic, they supported the multicultural community by providing 2,500 culturally appropriate pre-made meals, 400 hygiene packs, ongoing COVID health information and referral support, free weekly online social friendship cafes, and information awareness sessions.
More broadly, AMCS provides individualised, culturally appropriate Home Care Package services to seniors with multicultural backgrounds. With professional staff representing 36 different nationalities, AMCS matches care advisors and support workers with seniors in need of care.
Elizabeth Drozd, CEO of AMCS, said the organisation provides reliable, flexible and innovative services that make a “positive difference to the lives of Victorians from a migrant background”.
Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) has over 35 years of experience in supporting older Victorians to live safely at home for as long as possible. For more information, visit www.amcservices.org.au.