Navigating the health system and deciphering health information can be daunting tasks and people from multicultural backgrounds often fall through the gaps, stemming from cultural, language, economic, and social barriers. This disparity means our multicultural community are disproportionately prone to chronic diseases compared to their Australian-born counterparts, which only intensifies within the first decade of their arrival in Australia.
The World Wellness Group (WWG), a recent recipient of Brisbane Airport Corporation’s (BAC) Community Giving Fund is on a mission to create health equity for all Australians. Among WWG clients, 92% come from multicultural backgrounds and 51% speak a language other than English, representing an array of 70 different languages. By delivering health and wellness services tailored to their linguistic and culturally diverse backgrounds, WWG is making a difference to the health and wellbeing for our multicultural community.
WWG tackles the barriers to healthcare by delivering a bulk billing GP clinic in Woolloongabba, mental health and wellbeing services, a telephone helpline, refugee and asylum healthcare, allied health, traditional medicine and wellness services, health justice, international student healthcare and health promotion. People seeking asylum without access to Medicare are provided free medical care, medications and access to pathology and radiology. WWG continually has to fundraise to sustain this work.
They are also working on addressing the systems that create health inequity in the first place through high-quality representation, training and education, research and data and lived experience.
Marina Chand, Director and one of the three co-founders of WWG, explains how they first became aware of the Community Giving Fund and why they applied.
“All our clients have come through Brisbane Airport, including all newly arrived refugees. We appreciate that their first experience of Australia is at the Brisbane Airport and then they come to us for healthcare! It’s a local journey from BAC to WWG. That’s why we think our organisation is closely connected to the Brisbane Airport and it’s what drove us to apply for the grant,” Marina said.
WWG has successfully received the Brisbane Airport grant twice, with the initial success coinciding with the global upheaval of 2020. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health messaging was rapidly evolving, WWG adeptly pivoted to provide crucial support to their community.
Nera Komarić, Company Secretary, explains how WWG used the grant funds from 2020.
“Our community were struggling to understand the health information being distributed during the COVID-19 outbreak and were scared and unsure what to do. We knew we had to do something as the government messaging was not reaching our clientele,” Nera says.
“They came to us for support and to speak with someone from their cultural background for reassurance. We used the grant to set up a demountable clinic in our car park to help triage patients.
“This resulted in vaccinating over 2,600 people and 467 outreach activities where we engaged with a further 3,000 people on COVID-19 vaccination messaging.”
The WWG health service clients increased by 34% during COVID-19, with 8% of the increase seeking mental health services.
“BAC listened to the needs of the community - this grant identified a need and gave us the opportunity to act in a short time frame,” said Marina.
In 2023, WWG applied for the grant again to work on a project of creating health fact sheets that are culturally tailored and speak to people’s experiences.
“Information resources readily available through the health system are very generic and not culturally translated. The fact sheets we have developed, thanks to Brisbane Airport’s Community Giving grant, speak to people's experiences and social conditions. The goal is to extend our reach and focus on preventative health,” said Marina.
Clients of WWG are grateful to be able to access the services provided and often show their thanks by bringing food or craft presents.
Marina explains how clients frequently seek their services due to cultural safety.
“During COVID-19 we had a lady come all the way from Logan to our Brisbane clinic to get vaccinated. She is from Burundi and came to talk to one of our nurses who is also from Burundi. The reassurance of speaking with this nurse from the same cultural background made her feel safe to get vaccinated,” said Marina.
Looking to the future WWG would like to develop a teaching centre where junior GPs can extend their cultural capability.
“To make WWG sustainable for the future, we need to extend our reach to the broader health system and share our expertise,” said Marina. “After all, in Australia, where more than 50% of the population was born overseas or has a parent born overseas, multicultural is mainstream.”
How can you help?
There are many ways to be part of the solution to create health equity in Australia:
- Make a small donation – all funds go directly to healthcare for asylum seekers
- Join the patron program – for $1,000 a year your donation will significantly contribute to our ongoing essential work of the WWG
- Donate groceries to the community pantry. Many patients of the WWG services are struggling to make ends meet financially, so contributing extra groceries to the community pantry can make a difference too
- Subscribe to the WWG monthly newsletter to hear about new and upcoming campaigns and events.