Enjoying the fruits of bilingual health education in the workplace

Costa is one of Australia’s oldest fruit and vegetable companies, with their history stretching back to the early 19th century, when Sicilian migrant and winemaker, Francesco Costa, arrived in Australia for work. Subsequent family migration resulted in the establishment of retail and wholesale fruit stores throughout the 20th century, ultimately leading to the Costa we know today: a major grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, including mushrooms, berries, tomatoes, citrus and avocados.

Costa has operations in every state of Australia, with more than fifty sites, and it employs up to 6,000 people during the peak harvest season. Their workforce is very diverse, with up to 60 different languages spoken across the business. Nowhere is this diversity better highlighted than at Costa’s Victorian mushroom farm, based at Mernda in the City of Whittlesea. With a year round workforce of 600, more than three quarters are migrant women for whom English is a second language.

So why are we telling you this? We love the migrant history of Costa, but that’s not the only reason. Mostly, it’s because Costa has partnered with the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health for a number of years participating in the Industry Visits Program at the Mernda mushroom farm. The program runs for eight weeks of the year, when MCWH educators visit the workplace at lunch times to share multilingual health information with women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds in a range of languages and formats.

It’s a fantastic partnership and demonstrates a responsibility and consideration for migrant women workers well being that frankly, we find rare. Every year, MCWH seeks education partnerships with industries and workplaces with high numbers of migrant women employees and it is heartening when our offer is taken up. MCWH has not only run the program several times at Mernda mushroom farm, it has run an additional program in order to reach the international student workforce that occupies the weekend shifts.

MCWH is thrilled that Costa has agreed to be our major sponsor for our 40th anniversary gala event on 25 October (save the date!). For all of the bilingual educators who have spent time there, for all of the support staff and for all of the migrant women who work at Costa’s mushroom farm, Costa’s sponsorship demonstrates a commitment to women’s health and well being that goes far beyond lip service to diversity. We greatly value their involvement in our upcoming celebrations and the support they have shown.

Costa’s commitment also demonstrates that they recognise the value of bilingual health education, to transform women’s health and lives. We invite you to watch our newest video about bilingual health education here.

And thank you Costa!