Department of Health

Review of COVID-19 Communications in Victoria

Victorian Government response to the Independent Pandemic Management Advisory Committee (IPMAC) Report

The Victorian Government welcomes the Final Report into the Review of COVID-19 Communications in Victoria from the Independent Pandemic Management Advisory Committee (IPMAC), and thanks members of the Committee for their work in producing the Report.

The global pandemic was a one-in-one-hundred-year event across continents and countries. Governments around the world were tasked with communicating to the public in a dynamic environment, on an unprecedented scale. From symptoms, to testing, right through to COVIDSafe behaviours and vaccination – governments had to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has communicated to Victorians in every way possible, utilising every channel available. Through traditional media, social media, paid advertising, community engagement sessions, partnerships with business and industry leaders, online resources and person to person communications across the state – the Government was committed to reaching all Victorians.

Throughout the pandemic, it was a priority of the Government to ensure Victorians had access to information to protect themselves and their loved ones. As the report acknowledges - the Government mobilised significant resources across the whole of government to ensure Victorians were aware of public health measures.

The Committee’s Report also highlights the immense impact of our investment in culturally specific and in-language messaging to reach diverse and hard-to-reach populations. This important work will remain a central component of our ongoing approach to COVID-19 communications.

Victoria’s investment in communications for priority communities has included in-language advertising promoting vaccination and health messages, partnerships with key services, running dozens of information and training sessions with community leaders, providing COVID-19 information in more than 50 languages, hosting more than 1,000 community engagement sessions and supporting more than 100 organisations with the tools they needed to  address community concerns and drive vaccination uptake in peer-to-peer communications.

In January and February 2022, at the height of the Omicron wave, the Victorian Government and Department of Health representatives conducted 32 press conferences on the COVID-19 situation to keep Victorians updated and informed of the latest developments and public health advice.

Recommendations

  • The Government supports this recommendation in principle, and the Department of Health has integrated COVID-19 communications functions into the central Communications & Engagement Branch.

    The integration of this function will ensure that relevant COVID-19 behaviour and promotion campaigns can continue, alongside other important health education and awareness programs.

  • The Government notes this advice from the Committee and supports this recommendation.

    Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health worked closely with local public health units, community and faith leaders and industry bodies and stakeholders to develop and implement targeted and tailored communications plans, to ensure that the most vulnerable and at-risk Victorians had access to the information and tools they needed to protect themselves and those around them.

    The Report notes the broad range of engagement activities that were undertaken including culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) engagement, vaccination pop-up centres, industry forums, engagement with Aboriginal communities, media, and local government engagement initiatives. Engagement channels included weekly meetings with communities, informal individual and small group discussions, industry and community forums, social media, advertisements and promotions, phone hotlines, letter box drops, council connectors, email, videos, information sessions, vaccination bus, vaccination neighbourhood pop-ups, newspapers, and radio.

    The Department’s ongoing approach to COVID-19 communications will continue to include community engagement and partnerships with local and community organisations as a central component, to ensure the development of tailored communication and engagement. 

  • The Government notes the Committee’s advice and supports the recommendation.

    The Department of Health has developed an ongoing approach to COVID-19 communications, including working with departments across the Victorian Government to encourage personal and collective responsibility and improve COVID-19 health literacy.

  • The Government notes the Committee’s advice and supports the recommendation.

    The Department of Health has developed an ongoing approach to COVID-19 communications and engagement and acknowledges the importance of developing processes and protocols informed by experience.

    World-wide, the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic will provide lessons across communications and community engagement, to better prepare the world for future pandemics, and Victoria is no different.

  • The Government notes the Committee’s advice and supports in principle the recommendation to continue to invest in data and analytics.

    The Department of Health will continue to invest in data and analytics to inform public policy as governments across the country and around the world do.

    This work is important, and critically important is the protection of personal information and personal data, to ensure trust and confidence in public policy and communications.

  • The Government notes the recommendation of the committee and will explore what additional capacity may be available within the Department of Health, while reiterating the critical importance of the protection of personal data and personal information, to ensure trust and confidence in public policy and communications. 

Reviewed 29 September 2022

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