HealthWISE tackles refugee language barrier with health videos

Kaso Jehan HealthWISE

Armidale’s Ezidi refugee community face many challenges as they adapt to Australian society, with one of the toughest being the language barrier. Local organisation HealthWISE have tackled this problem head on with a series of short videos designed to help the Ezidi people navigate the health system.

“I just hope that they are a resource that can be used over and over and actually make a difference in people in the community’s life,” HealthWISE care navigator Melissa van Leeuwen said. Almost 700 Ezidi people have settled in Armidale since 2018, after being displaced from their homes in Iraq. Many carry traumas, and have significant health needs.

Spoken in the Ezidi language, Kurdish/Kurmanji, the videos are animated, and include English subtitles to assist with word recognition.

“I had been working with members of the Ezidi community for 4-5 months and one of the things that I quickly realised was that the best platform in which to pass along information was spoken word,” explained Melissa.

Working with interpreters Kaso Elias and Jehan Darwesh, Melissa created several simple tools to reach the community, such as audio reminders for medical appointments or COVID-19 screening measures, all recorded in Kurdish/Kurmanji.

“Lots of the information that we have to give through the Australian health care system is ridiculously complicated. Breaking it down into a more simplified version is great, but it’s still in English. So I realised being able to speak in the language the people from the community understand, was going to be the best way to actually get that information across,” Melissa said.

There are 11 videos in total, covering a variety of health care topics including mental health, Medicare, patient rights and responsibilities, and the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme.

“Some things were new for me, because nobody had explained it to me before – even I learned something from these videos. I think it’s very important for the community to have something like that,” Kaso said.

“I was really excited (when they were finished) because it’s very important for my community, because they will learn many new things.”

The videos were made possible through funding from the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network, as part of a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities grant. 

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HealthWISE

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