(Received by Tribune International, 2 Sep 2021)
Hello, I’m Natalie Ward. It is my great privilege to be your Minister for Multiculturalism in NSW.
I know many of you are facing great challenges as we confront this COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no doubt it has turned many lives upside down and so I want to keep you up to date with the work the NSW Government has been doing as we address these difficult times together.
I have been in daily contact with our religious and community leaders and your NSW Government has been responding urgently to their gracious feedback about support needed in our multicultural communities.
Their partnership and advice is crucial. Please know that I am deeply grateful for our connection, as we walk this journey together.
Staying at home, following the health orders and getting vaccinated, are our pathways out of this pandemic.
I encourage you to have conversations with your loved ones who have not yet had a vaccination, about why it is so critical.
Please don’t hesitate to seek information from trusted sources to support these important discussions.
It’s important that all members of our community have access to information about the latest NSW Government supports available to our community during this difficult time.
$18.8m Emergency Relief Package
A record emergency relief package of $18.8 million, focussing on the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of concern, is available to support vulnerable members of our community during the latest COVID outbreak.
It will help grassroots organisations deliver emergency food relief, promote vaccination and testing services, and provide culturally appropriate support and care to our diverse communities.
The package includes a $13 million grants program delivering emergency relief through not-for-profit and multicultural community organisations, as well as local councils.
Local community groups are now eligible to apply for grants of up to $30,000 to deliver grassroots projects supporting vulnerable communities.
It also includes $4 million for ongoing multicultural communications, including interpreting and translation services, to deliver critical health messages.
$6.25m Asylum Seeker Funding Package
The NSW Government has announced a $6.25 million funding package for temporary visa holders, particularly asylum seekers, who need urgent support during the pandemic.
This funding will be available to non-Government organisations (NGOs) to help provide emergency relief including food, medical support, essential housing and transport.
$750,000 COVID community support grants
Urgent grants totalling $750,000 are available to more than 150 multicultural community organisations to help deliver grassroots community-led initiatives.
More than 2300 resources have been translated by our NSW translation and interpreting service to cover specific health information including stay-at-home orders which are available in almost 60 languages.
Almost 3500 of our religious and community leaders have attended more than 30 community forums which we established early via Multicultural NSW to reach into every corner of our communities.
Interviews with community leaders
We have also coordinated more than 200 individual interviews with our community leaders to understand specific community needs during the current outbreak. I thank them for their time and honesty in providing feedback, suggestions and ideas.
Interpreting daily COVID news conference
Our partnership with SBS has delivered live real-time interpretation of the NSW Government’s daily COVID news conference. Our live interpretation now delivers the daily health updates in 10 languages: Arabic, Assyrian, Bangla, Cantonese, Greek, Khmer, Mandarin, Spanish, Vietnamese and Urdu. This is the first live multicultural interpretation service of its kind in Australia.
Weekly news conferences with multicultural media
It is my privilege to attend weekly live news conferences with our multicultural media together with the Minister for Health Brad Hazzard, as well as Dr Jan Fizzell and Dr Marianne Gale from NSW Health to give updates and answer Q&A.
Making vaccination easier
We continue to make vaccination more accessible to our community. Appointments can be made with your nearest participating pharmacy, NSW Health vaccination centre or your local GP. People aged 16-49 who live in the LGAs of concern are now being given priority access to the Pfizer vaccine.
Pop-up Vaccination Clinics
Thank you to the wonderful community and cultural leaders who have assisted our NSW Local Health Districts to establish walk-in vaccination clinics for everyone aged 18 and over in western and south-western Sydney. For locations and opening hours see: AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 18 and over | NSW Government
Test and self-isolate payments
If you are a worker, carer or guardian in one of the LGAs of concern, and have lost income while self-isolating and waiting for COVID-19 test results, we will support you while you wait for your results with the new $320 Covid-19 Test and Isolate support payment.
COVID-19 Disaster Payment if your income has been reduced
A support payment is also available from the Federal Government to help if you have lost your job or had your hours reduced due to the stay at home orders.
Extreme Hardship Support Program – NSW
The NSW Government is funding the Australian Red Cross to specifically support temporary visa holders who do not have access to Commonwealth support to meet urgent basic needs such as food and medicine, with a payment of $400.
It’s natural to be worried about COVID-19 and the changes happening all around us. Please continue to check in with family and friends with a phone call, text or online. There are free mental health services available if you need help.
For more information about all of these services and programs, see nsw.gov.au.
With best wishes,
The Hon. Natalie Ward MLC
Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans