KNOWING when to listen and when to speak is an important skill, but it isn’t always an easy one to master.
The launch of a new film collaboration between the Country Fire Authority, The University of Adelaide and the Nhill community goes a long way to showing how much we can achieve and learn when we ask rather than tell.
The film Prevention is Better Than Cure is designed as a resource for the town’s Karen residents to help them learn about fire safety.
It is part of a CFA Summer Local Initiative, and came about due to some confusion among Karen people about fire restrictions and danger periods.
The project recognised that, as people whose first language is not English and who hail from a place with a far different climate to the Wimmera – one that is far less prone to bushfires – the common fire safety messages circulated in our community would not necessarily be understood by Nhill’s large Karen population.
And as Wimmera residents we appreciate there is no way to understate the importance of fire safety in our community, particularly in the summer.
The authority could have translated their publications into the Karen language and fed messages through that way.
Instead, they chose something far more meaningful: to engage with the community and work in partnership with them, respecting both the Karen population’s and authority’s knowledge and expertise in equal measure.
As the authority’s community engagement team member Angela Cook told the Mail-Times, “It wasn’t CFA saying, ‘This is what you need to do’. It’s about taking off our telling hats and putting on our listening hats.”
This community-based participatory approach recognises that if risk messages respond to cultural needs – values, practices, and beliefs – they are far more likely to be heard and trusted.
The Nhill project will be used as a case study to develop similar ones, to help the authority and its brigades engage with other multicultural communities. The potential for these sorts of projects to be implemented in other aspects of community life is wide-ranging, and will likely only grow as our migrant communities expand.
Sometimes, taking a step back can offer the best way forward.