The Department of Human Services employs around 70 Multicultural Service Officers (MSOs) across the country to deliver targeted services to culturally and linguistically diverse customers.
Many of these MSOs are bilingual or multilingual, and some are also In-Language presenters on popular radio stations like SBS Radio.
One of these MSOs is Julian Jeyakumar, based in Auburn, New South Wales.
“I speak on SBS radio as a department representative to reach our 25,000 Tamil (native language to Sri Lanka) speaking customers in NSW,” says Julian.
“We speak about Budget initiatives and where to get information in your language. We also encourage our listeners online to follow up any enquiries they might have.”
“It’s so rewarding to know that I can make a difference to people’s lives during times of need.”
Another MSO with the gift of radio gab is Di Hong, who has been with the department for 34 years and is fluent in Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
“I love all languages… I try to pick up a few simple things when I’m working with people, even just hello and good bye. Saying a few words in someone’s language can be a great way to break the ice,” says Di Hong.
Di Hong loves serving people one-on-one, but it gives him particular satisfaction reaching a large customer-base via SBS Radio.
“I present on SBS Cantonese Radio which is broadcast daily all around Australia. They have around 30-40,000 listeners of the program,” Di Hong says.
“It’s a very useful way to give information to our Chinese speaking customers and also help build a sense of community among Chinese Australians.”
Gianna, an Italian-background MSO based in Adelaide, knows how language barriers can affect newly arrived migrants and refugees.
“When my family and I arrived in Australia in 1966 we didn’t speak any English,” says Gianna.
“It was really difficult for my Mum. To this day she doesn’t speak English, but I learnt English very quickly and was able to help her. I think that’s a common experience for people who migrated to Australia as children.”
From her own migration experiences and those of her family, Gianna is passionate about making information available to people in their own languages, via mediums they can easily access.
“Many older Italians rely on the radio for both information and entertainment.
“I present in Italian on Radio Italiana 531 which is owned and run by the Italian South Australian community… I give information and tips around pensions, carer allowances, carer payment, that sort of thing.”
“When my Mum first heard me on the radio she was so, so proud. She doesn’t brag, but she went and told all her friends who now tune in to my program regularly,” Gianna smiles.
“That makes me really happy, seeing first-hand how our language skills play such a big part in people’s lives.”