Network: CLING - a great inter-agency collaboration helping the recovery and rebuild of a diverse Christchurch

(caption for the above picture: Maria Fresia (middle), Nicki Reece (left), Janette Philp, and Tony Mc Neill)

- guidelines for disseminating information to culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Formed soon after the 2011 February earthquakes, the Community Language Information Network Group (CLING) has been serving the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in Christchurch by communicating and disseminating information for the last half a decade.

It started with the question of how well are the agencies prepared alongside CALD communities in the event of a major disaster. The eight founding members of CLING which included Pegasus, Plains FM, Christchurch Resettlement services, Human Rights Commission, Interpreting Canterbury, the Christchurch City Council, MPIA, and Community and Public Health found that there are some major problems in communication.

Maria Fresia of Interpreting Canterbury who is one of the founding members of CLING along with Nicki Reece of Plains FM, and Janette Philp, a communicable disease nurse, explained “These included interpreters not being used, information not reaching the people who needed it, there were also issues in the ways the information was being distributed, and above all for those who understood English, the language used in communication was not always plain and simple.”

This led to CLING - which also saw CERA come on board for a couple of years - publishing guidelines in 2011 for disseminating public information to CALD communities along with using language and sign interpreters.

It was followed by a deeper research done by Sarah Wylie in 2012 which led to the publication of “Best practice guidelines of engaging with CALD communities”.

“Some of the suggestions that came out as a result of the research and were later implemented included additional funding for community radio, ensuring accessibility of interpreters and translated material, improving cultural competency within organisations, developing CALD connections before disaster strikes, having CALD liaison roles in place, and coordinating the information which goes out to the wider community,” added Fresia.

One of the major recent developments that can be attributed in part to the work CLING did was the introduction of Christchurch City Council’s Multicultural Strategy.

“One of the salient points of the strategy is to develop a sense of belonging in the CALD communities by providing them accessibility to all the Council’s information in their ethnic languages. This has been our demand all along,” she noted.

On the question of ongoing relevance of CLING, she concluded, “We have realised that the problem of communication with CALD communities do not end after the disaster. That’s why we have taken the role of advocacy of promoting effective communication between communities and organisations. We meet once a month. Along with all our founding members, the Red Cross, Canterbury Migrants Centre, Immigration NZ, Lesley Campbell from University of Canterbury, have all joined the network now. We also present and participate in seminars and workshops all year round sharing our experience and knowledge. Most recent was our webinar to the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration on ‘migrants and disaster risk reduction’, where we talked about how to increase awareness on migrant-specific conditions in the face of crisis and emergencies.”