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Australia NSW SES launches new flood campaign in community languages targeting Sydney's north-west

02:01  14 august  2022
02:01  14 august  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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Traditional Chinese is among the six languages that feature in the SES's new flood campaign. (Supplied: NSW SES) © Provided by ABC NEWS Traditional Chinese is among the six languages that feature in the SES's new flood campaign. (Supplied: NSW SES)

A new information campaign to help culturally diverse communities in Sydney's north-west deal with a flood crisis will help keep them safe, the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Commissioner says.

From tomorrow, messaging in Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, Korean, Mandarin and Punjabi will appear in videos, radio and social media content.

Earlier this year, thousands of residents in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region were ordered to evacuate after parts of the state were smashed by record-breaking rain.

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The SES came under some criticism in the state's north and parts of Sydney over problems with communication.

Commissioner Carlene York said the campaign was a significant step.

"This campaign is really important to target locals in the Hawkesbury-Nepean community who speak languages other than English, and some of whom have experienced multiple floods in the past 18 months," she said.

"It's great we now have tailored content in multiple languages so that it is as accessible and relevant as possible.

"This is just one of the steps we have taken to communicate how to prepare and keep safe during a flood."

Minister for Emergency Services Steph Cooke said the campaign would assist with the community's ability to respond in a crisis.

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"Tragically three people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities lost their lives during the February-March flood event and we must continue to ensure that flood warnings and safety messages reach everyone living in this part of Greater Sydney," she said.

Terence Siriwardena, a team leader at NSW SES Blacktown unit in Sydney's west, was called to help with flood evacuations in the region.

Mr Siriwardena, who has been a volunteer for over five years, said even if someone did speak English, communication can be hard in high-stress situations.

"We do get confronted by a lot of people who cannot understand what we are saying and struggle," he said.

"When they are in a crisis themselves, they obviously have a lot of thoughts running through their mind, so we always encourage them to have a plan and to prepare early."

Mr Siriwardena, who was born in Australia from a Sri Lankan background and speaks Sinhalese, understands what it is like to have someone speak your language.

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"I have come across a few cases where I have talked with people who speak the same language as me," he said.

"And it has proved very, very important that they can understand and comprehend what I say because I can speak that language."

He said it was great to have information to hand out in other languages.

"Obviously there are a lot of other languages out there that need interpreting, but having them prepared in statements or videos so we can pass them out, so we can capture a greater audience would really be beneficial," he said.

Federation of Indian Associations of NSW spokesperson Dr Yadu Singh said any messages became more prominent if they are in someone's own language.

"This will lead to more attention to those messages even if people speak English," he said.

"Many households speak Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and so on, so it is a very productive way to make sure that communication is reaching those groups that are vulnerable in those areas."

Dr Singh said it had been a long time coming.

"While any information is great, it is not enough to just have these videos in different languages," he said.

"More communication channels are needed with community groups to reinforce those safety messages, to work hand-in-hand with emergency services such as the SES."

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