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September 2021

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Multicultural leaders Muhammad Mir Norozi, Noorjan Muhammad Juma and Augustino Moedu.

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Community heroes Chris Scott and Brian Cook with Barwon health infectious disease department director Eugene Athan. (Picture courtesy of The Geelong Advertiser)

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Tristan with disability vaccination clinic nurse immuniser Katrina Gurrie. (Picture courtesy of The Geelong Advertiser)

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Barwon Health clinical co-ordinator Caroline Poynder with Salvo’s outreach van volunteers Andy Allen and Brad Ogle.

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Volunteering Geelong CEO Helen Hunter, Cr Anthony Aitken and associate nursing unit manager Angela Hayes.

Community leaders call cohorts to arms against COVID-19

Barwon health has taken varied measures to maximise community COVID-19 vaccinations.

Several local cultural leaders rolled up their sleeves and received jabs to protect themselves and encourage their communities to do the same.

Hazara community leader Muhammad Mir Norozi and Noorjan Muhammad Juma, along with Karenni community leader Augustino Moedu, joined Barwon Health’s Community Hero campaign to inspire their communities and lead by example.

The Barwon Health Community Hero campaign is being supported by the Geelong Advertiser which is putting out a ‘call to arms’ to get everyone vaccinated across Geelong and the Surf Coast.

The campaign features identities from around the region supporting the Barwon South West vaccination rollout.

Mr Moedu said vaccination was important in protecting those he loved.

‘I came here for the vaccination against COVID.

‘This disease is very bad and very strong.

‘I want to fight it and keep it away from our community and to finish the virus.

‘I want to help our community, our families and the whole world.’

The Community Hero cultural ambassadors have all come on board thanks to a partnership between not-for-profit service provider Diversitat and Barwon Health.

They received their vaccination at the community vaccination hub in Norlane and were able to utilise the telephone interpreter service to ensure they understood all steps in the vaccination process.

To improve support for Geelong’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, Barwon Health and Diversitat have collaborated to develop tools aimed at encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The tools include a video translated into eight languages explaining how to book a vaccination and what happens during an appointment, as well as information sessions hosted by public health experts and supported by interpreters for newly-arrived and culturally-diverse groups within the region.

Well-known Geelong Football Club leaders Chris Scott and Brian Cook also became Barwon South West Community Heroes.

‘The past 18 months have been difficult for so many people in our community,’ said Cats coach Chris Scott.

‘Many people have missed out on doing what they love.

‘I am getting vaccinated so that I can protect my family and our community and hopefully do my bit to help us get back to normal life.

‘I also can’t wait to see full capacity crowds back at footy and engaging with the fans again.’

Cats Chief Executive Officer and Barwon Health board chair Brian Cook has seen first-hand the impact on both the sporting industry and frontline healthcare workers.

‘I’ve seen the impact COVID-19 has had on our healthcare workers and they have done an incredible job supporting our community in such a critical time.

‘I’ve been vaccinated so that we can support and protect our healthcare system.

‘Like everyone, I also want to see people getting back to regular life and the events and activities that we all enjoy, like catching up with friends and going to the footy.’

And people in Geelong with a disability needing special access can now visit a suitable clinic.

Barwon Health’s disability liaison office has collaborated with the Barwon South West public health unit to provide the specialised clinic at the Belmont Community Health Centre.

Disability liaison unit clinical neuropsychologist Therese Clark said the clinic was a very important step in helping to vaccinate people with a disability in a supportive setting.

‘The specialised clinic will take some of the fear and stress out of the vaccination process for carers, families and people with a disability.

‘While our community vaccination hub is suitable for many people with a disability, this specialised clinic will offer a supportive and safe space for those people with additional needs.

‘We hope it will provide a calm setting with our specialised disability staff on-hand to assist families with the process,’ Dr Clark said.

Lara woman Rhonda, whose son Tristan, 32, has a disability, said she was comforted knowing he could attend the clinic and receive his vaccination in a supportive setting.

‘I really wanted Tristan to receive his vaccination, as I know how important it is to have him protected from COVID-19, but was concerned about the process being suitable for his needs.

‘I was relieved to find out about this clinic and it has made the whole process so much easier.’

Transport programs are also bringing COVID-19 assistance and vaccinations to the community.

The Barwon South West public health unit and the Geelong Salvation Army outreach team have been taking the COVID-19 vaccination program to the streets, offering rough sleepers and those requiring food relief, the opportunity to receive their vaccination at their mobile outreach van.

‘Offering vaccination will help protect people in need who often find it difficult to lockdown and isolate during outbreaks,’ said Brad Ogle from Geelong Salvos outreach van team.

‘We hope a higher uptake in vaccination among the homeless will help protect their health and keep them safe.’

He said the transport program was supported by the High-risk Accommodation Response Team, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, the Primary Health Network and City of Greater Geelong to offer transport to public housing residents and vulnerable people.

And a City of Greater Geelong (COGG) community transport program has also improved community access to the COVID-19 vaccination.

The program has been initiated locally by Volunteering Geelong, based on a successful model operated by Eastern Volunteering, Melbourne.

‘The council is extremely proud to have been able to develop, in collaboration with Volunteering Geelong, this unique project to deliver access to COVID-19 vaccinations to some of the most vulnerable members of our community in Geelong,’ said COGG councillor Anthony Aitken.

‘This bus service is a great example of a partnership helping to reduce barriers to vaccination, for people who may find it hard to get to our community vaccination hub,’ said Barwon Health Chief Executive Officer Frances Diver.