‘A big first step’: Western Sydney Local Health District’s expo introduces students to vital healthcare services

Western Sydney is a vibrant tapestry of multicultural communities – and from this diversity blooms traditions and customs that weave together to form Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) population.

However, for families who have recently migrated to Australia, navigating a new healthcare system can be a daunting and overwhelming experience.

The 2022 Multicultural Youth Hello Doctor Expo was held during November at the Allan G Ezzy Community Centre in Pemulwuy, Cumberland, with the theme of ‘Better Access’ and the goal of overcoming some of these hurdles by empowering the teenagers of these families with healthcare knowledge.

Students from Holroyd High School’s Intensive English Centre (IEC) engaged with the 14 stalls set up, which covered topics such as the dangers of vaping, accessing mental health assistance, hepatitis testing, and youth services.

“Some of these kids have newly arrived – they’ve been here for less than six to 12 months. Coming to a new country, knowing how to navigate the healthcare system can be a very difficult thing. If we add on top of that limited English language as well, it becomes even more difficult,” Multicultural Health Program Officer – Youth, Daniel Kwai Apat said.

“We see these events as well as a gateway to working with their parents. When working with the kids, they will take some information and brochures back home and so we can help the parents engage too.

“In order to navigate through the healthcare system, you have to know what’s available. You cannot utilise healthcare services if you don’t know what exists. So having this first point of contact and this access is a big first step.”

The kids walked through the sessions in two groups, with years 7 and 8 taking the morning shift and years 9 and 10 visiting after lunch.

For teacher at Holroyd High School, Kushma Naidu, the session was not just about health information, but also networking with their peers.

“A day like today is such a benefit for our students, because a lot of them have newly arrived in the country and are unfamiliar and unsure about how to access these services. This information is really valuable for them, and they will share this with their families as well. That’s what they need when they’re settling in,” she said.

“I was amazed by how engaged the kids were today. They were involved and asking questions and were asking to spend more time at the stalls! They really valued this and were able to make friends today. It was a really social day.”

The students participated in a variety of games and quizzes, and were able to take home information booklets from the healthcare professionals at the stalls.

Cumberland City Council Youth Development Officer, Nicole Hunt, said that the availability of all this information in a friendly, open environment was also a great way to encourage an ongoing relationship.

“Council is here for the whole community. Any way we can help the community – especially through the youth development team – to educate and support the young people in the community, we are happy to get on board.