NSW SES celebrates its diversity this Harmony Week

17/03/2021 04:13 PM

This Harmony Week, NSW State Emergency Service (NSW SES) is celebrating the diversity of its volunteers and the invaluable contributions they make to keeping their communities safe.  

Harmony Week (15-21 March) is a time to celebrate Australia’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

NSW SES welcomes everyone – our doors are wide open to anyone willing to make a difference and help their community before, during and after storms, floods and tsunamis. In fact, NSW SES has a dedicated Multicultural Liaison Unit, which is made up of members from diverse refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Created in partnership with SCARF Refugee Support, the Multicultural Liaison Unit’s members help create strategies to enable NSW SES to effectively communicate with culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

One such person who decided to join the unit after settling in Australia is Elizabeth Jowanie.

Elizabeth’s journey started in a refugee camp in Thailand, having been born there after her family were forced to flee Burma, (now known as Myanmar). In 2008, Elizabeth came to Australia with her parents and two brothers where they made a new life for themselves in Wollongong, NSW.

“As a then 12-year-old, arriving in a new country like Australia I could not speak English, so that presented many challenges for my family and myself,” Elizabeth recalls.

“I focused on my education and after learning English and finishing my schooling, I went on and studied nursing and graduated in 2018,” she says.

Elizabeth also started volunteering with NSW SES in 2018, and since then has made friends with many other volunteers.

Since joining the service, Elizabeth says she has gained a lot of satisfaction by teaching other members of the Myanmar community in Wollongong about the role of NSW SES, and what to do before, during and after a storm or flood.

“I joined the service so I could assist community members from my background, by educating them in their languages about how the SES can help them during floods and storms,” Elizabeth says.

“I speak English, Karenni, Karen, Burmese and Momu, so I thought I could use my skills and speak to those specific communities, as well as translating products to better prepare them for bad weather.

“For older community members from Myanmar, their children talk to them about an emergency and what they need to do.

“Community members from Myanmar generally know each other and have strong connections across the community in NSW and across Australia.

“We help each other out when we can, and we pass a lot of information via word of mouth,” she adds.

As one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world, NSW SES recognises the importance of equal access to services and information for all people, regardless of their background. It is thanks to the dedication of those such as Elizabeth and the other members of the Multicultural Liaison Unit that the NSW SES can connect with culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

NSW SES has many resources available for Non-English-speaking people available via ses.nsw.gov.au/non-english-speaking-page.

For more information about Harmony Day, please visit harmony.gov.au.  

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