Neos Kosmos were invited by the Victoria State Government on Tuesday, December 5, to a roundtable discussion about helping multicultural Victorians plan for emergencies, ahead of what is expected to be a dry hot summer.

Part of the push to help the cultural communities in Victoria, is the introduction of the Emergency Management Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communications Strategies Grants program.

In a statement provided to Neos Kosmos at the meeting today, Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes announced that three organisations have shared in $1.5 million to support the program.

This funding came from the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV), the Burnet Institute and LanguageLoop to deliver better access to trusted, culturally appropriate, and in-language information for multicultural Victorians about emergencies.

These groups will also work with local groups and community leaders to co-design emergency resources and training.

“We’re giving multicultural communities in Victoria locally-led support to better plan for, respond to, and recovery from emergencies,” Minister Symes said.

“This seasonal outlook is a good reminder that fire safety is everyone’s responsibility. Victorians should use this time to get ready, understand their local risks and keep up to date with the latest information on VicEmergency.”

Amongst the many discussion points, was that Victoria will likely experience a traditional summer this season, unlike previous years that saw more wet weather.

Keris Arndt, Senior Meteorologist at Bureau of Meteorology says Victorians need to be prepared for anything, with this past winter and spring seeing the state experience a dry and warm period followed by two weeks of very wet weather to end November.

He said summer is looking to be warmer than average and quite dry, which generally means the risk of fire.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) are concerned for summer this year, so they alongside other groups like Fire Rescue Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria have been into communities doing community education and awareness campaigns to educate and bring awareness.

Some of this education revolves around the two streets back campaign, that asks communities to move away two streets in the event of a fire.

CFA Chief Officer Jeff Heffernan spoke about the actions people should take this summer, from maintaining and cutting grass to moving flammable materials and for those in a fire danger region, to spend days elsewhere.

Neos Kosmos asked Heffernan how exactly the CFA and co are communicating to these multicultural communities, and he said they all have programs to understand how to approach each group.

“We seek to actively engage with them and that might be through attendance to prayer breakfasts. It might be attendance to street festivals and other celebratory cultural engagements with that community,” he said.

Information from VicEmergency and other resources are also provided in multiple languages.

“We understand that Victoria is a real melting pot of multicultural societies and people from different backgrounds and Melbourne especially.”

“It means we’ve got to make sure that when we go and visit those communities that we’re able to break through in their language so they can understand what’s going on and to ensure that they get some degree of fire safety.”

When asked about total fire bans and the activities many Greeks and other groups would partake in, like BBQs, even in areas not generally affected by grass or bush fires, Heffernan said part of the challenge is to educate said groups.

“We quite often get asked questions about barbecues, about cultural ceremonies, in particular, about outdoor cooking in traditional ways. Part of our challenge is to make sure we educate communities who may not be from Australia or first-generation Australians to understand what it means.”

It is being urged that all Victorians should download the VicEmergency App and stay across both the VicEmergency website and local emergency media broadcasters. People can also make a fire plan via the new Online Fire Planner.