Three Victoria University students were among 47 young people from the City of Melton region recruited by the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation to help inform their peers about COVID-19.
The Foundation was engaged by Melton City Council, who received funding from the Department of Premier and Cabinet to run the program – called Melton Health Champions – in response to COVID-19 that supported culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Melbourne’s west.
Over four months from 2020 to 2021, the participants met weekly and experienced the peaks and troughs of the pandemic first-hand with a mix of online and face-to-face sessions.
The aims of the program resonated with participant and Bachelor of Psychological Studies student, Mauana Fepuleai.
“Identifying as a Polynesian youth and growing up in Australia I recognise the unique challenges that other youths just like me face on a regular basis. Feeling a sense of belonging, connection to a wider community and being an active member of society are just a few challenges we have endured during this pandemic due to being disconnected and isolated for such a long time.” – Mauana
One component of the program was to learn about local community services and their primary functions, including health, wellbeing and youth services, which many young people weren’t aware of.
Program participants also discovered the gaps that were present within their cultural communities when it came to knowledge of COVID-19, and worked towards addressing these through targeted messaging and the way information is disseminated.
“It was alarming the amount of individuals from my community who weren’t aware of the services on offer that were made for them. Moving forward, I think it’s important for our community to be intentional with the promotion and delivery of services.” – Mauana
“I think the biggest challenge COVID-19 brought forth is how much we fear the unknown. So in this case, education is key. Knowing what we’re facing and how we can support each other, is what will give us the certainty and confidence to get through.” – Mauana
Find out more about the community programs run by the Foundation at westernbulldogs.com.au/foundation/programs