More than 100 multicultural community leaders and representatives of Ethic Media outlets from across Australia attended a virtual roundtable held on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, Jason Wood.
In the sixty minutes long community forum, the attendees were informed for the status of the vaccine rollout and had the opportunity to address their questions directly to the PM and the Ministers.
This major roundtable, came nearly two months after the federal government released a plan to ensure COVID vaccine rollout information and services are accessible for CALD communities.
The plan outlines the need for clear messaging that’s inclusive and emphasises the importance of working with community leaders and multicultural community organisations.
Hawke: “We really need your feedback”
In his opening remarks, Minister Hawke asked the attendees to reflect upon the health crisis India is facing and expressed his support to the Australian Indian community.
“This has been an unprecedented year. Your feedback is continuing to be very viable for us in government, about what we can do to ensure Australia has a very cohesive society,” said Hawke.
“We do need to stay close to each other, so we continue to react and stay stable and strong. We appreciate the sacrifices your communities have been making with lockdowns, with community needs, with challenges that have been unable to be met by governments state or federal”.
Hawke said that it is necessary for the communities to partner and support the government and provide “viable support” especially during the rollout that is expected to go ahead the second half of the year.
“It is going to be the key to our success,” he said.
Morrison: “The response to aged care is not too far away”
With regards to aged care issues and shortages, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined the forum from Darwin where he was on a visit, made clear that “the response to aged care is not too far away” and that the budget “will address these issues comprehensively”.
“Of course, for the government, so much of our focus continues to be the impact of the COVID pandemic,” said the PM, thanking the participants for their leadership.
“Australia is leading the world out of the COVID-19 recession and that is overwhelmingly due, I think, to the resilience and determination of Australians and the way they’ve looked after each other and looked out for each other and that is especially true for our multiculturally and linguistically diverse communities.”
Mr Morrison referred to the number of fatalities due to COVID-19 in Australia, currently at 910.
“The majority of those were in aged care where people are most vulnerable to COVID and that’s why right now our focus on the vaccination program is very much on our elderly residents an those in aged care,” he said.
With regards to the upcoming budget, the PM talked about a “pandemic budget” and said that Australia is currently assisting India and focusing on repatriating Australians.
“Since about the end of October we have seen 140.000 Australians come home,” he said.
Morrison said that the government will continue to work with communities to ensure the appropriate support is provided and with regards to the country’s economy he said that “in comparison is doing extremely well.”
When asked about the reopening of Australia’s international borders, the PM made clear that the vaccination itself is not a “silver bullet”.
“When it comes to our borders, we’ll have to consider our decisions very carefully. What we don’t want to do, is find Australia in a situation like so many other countries are. Where people can’t go out, can’t go to work or participate in important cultural events or go and visit family. That’s what we do in Australia now and we want to make sure we can keep doing that.”
International Students and Domestic Violence:
Replying to questions on international students and the difficulties some of them are facing with distant learning, Minister Hawke said that the government is aware of the issues, is working closely with the universities but explained that the offshore learning phase will continue for as long as required until international students can return safely.
With regards to the increase in domestic violence within some communities, the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs and former police officer, Jason Wood, encouraged the victims to come forward and seek assistance.
“Just so everyone is clear, people experiencing family violence will not have their visa cancelled if their relationship breaks down because of family violence,” added the PM firmly.
Mr Morrison and the Ministers called community members seeking information for COVID and the vaccine, to only do so via the Australian Department of Health website: health.gov.au/covid19vaccines