MCWH service changes until June: a response to COVID-19

At Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, we’re aware that the COVID-19 outbreak has serious impacts on the health and wellbeing of migrant and refugee women, including our participants and staff. To best respond to this situation, we’re changing the way we work. Our Executive Director, Adele Murdolo shares our plan:

Dear MCWH partners and friends,

I’m sure you have all been busy within your organisations developing a plan to address the new conditions imposed by the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

This week Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health took the unprecedented step of cancelling all bilingual health education sessions between now and the end of June 2020. Small bilingual group sessions conducted in community and workplace settings are a vital information avenue for migrant women. However, to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the community, ceasing face to face sessions for now is the best way to protect the health and safety of migrant women participants and MCWH bilingual health educators.

In a health crisis, migrant women need more than ever to have an accurate and thorough understanding of preventative health. While substantial information about the transmission of COVID-19 is available in English, there are only basic multilingual messages currently available in selected languages, and no information that is specifically tailored for migrant communities.

To date, the government has not communicated its plan for how web-based information will be disseminated to people who do not have familiarity with, or reliable access to, the internet. We are aware that COVID-19 is a gendered issue, but no information has been targeted to migrant communities to address the specific concerns that impact mostly on women, such as pregnancy, family violence, and caring for children, just to name a few. We will continue to advocate to government that tailored multilingual information is developed and disseminated to migrant women.

In cancelling MCWH health education programs, I was concerned about two key issues. One was that MCWH bilingual health educators are casually employed and are therefore not paid if sessions do not go ahead. Second, migrant women continue to need health education and information in their languages and MCWH is one of the very few ways that they will gain access.

To address these two issues, over the next three months bilingual health educators will be engaged to develop a series of multilingual health education videos on a range of health issues for migrant women. The topics may also include COVID-19 if gaps in current government information persists, and no other information becomes available. We are excited about the opportunities to contribute to the resources available to women to support them to take preventative health action in their lives.

More broadly in response to the current situation, MCWH has taken measures to move our meetings online wherever possible, project deliverables have been amended to take account of changing circumstances and all staff have been supported to work from home.Some activities will not go ahead, such as training and women’s leadership programs. We will look at options for continuing these activities remotely over time.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch at if you would like to discuss any aspect of MCWH’s plan, partner to develop multilingual women’s health information, or join MCWH in advocating for better multilingual information for migrant women during this important time.

Adele Murdolo, Executive Director
Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health