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Research has revealed that confidence is the biggest barrier to culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) taking charge of their energy, with 44 leaders from CALD backgrounds sharing a range of insights into how they can help their communities. 

The project has now moved into the next phase, which involves turning these leaders into “energy experts” and advocates for members of their own communities.

Delivered in language, in culture and in community by civil society coalition Sydney Alliance, the Voices for Power ‘Train the Trainer’ Project completed four focus group discussions during March, where leaders from seven different cultural and religious communities across Sydney came together to share their current level of energy knowledge, priority areas for learning and thoughts on how best to train their own communities.

The leaders identified a range of topics they wanted to better understand on behalf of their communities, including ‘rights and responsibilities as an energy consumer’, ‘communicating with energy companies’, ‘supports available’, ‘safety’ and ‘energy tips’.

The biggest barrier in navigating the energy system was not found to be lack of knowledge however, but confidence to exercise their rights and navigate the energy industry, with100 per cent of leaders citing confidence as the primary barrier to engaging in energy within their communities.

Furthermore, leaders said that verbal, in-person communication using simple language was preferred over written materials as the best way for their communities to learn new skills and information about energy. Video content was an idea that participants were particularly enthusiastic about.

Energy partners behind the $200,000 pilot program, including national energy retailers Origin and AGL, New South Wales electricity distributors Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy and gas distribution company Jemena, worked with Sydney Alliance to develop training workshops for the community leaders based on these key learnings from the focus groups.

CEO for Ausgrid, Richard Gross, said, “Ausgrid is committed to improving the experience for all our customers. We serve one of the most CALD populations in Australia, and that’s why this program is so important to us. 

“We’re honoured to be able to work with Sydney Alliance and community leaders to develop this program to improve energy literacy and safety for the CALD community. 

“Delivering information in culturally specific ways is important and reflects Ausgrid’s commitment to work with and support the community we serve.

Thuy Linh Nguyen, Project Lead of the Voices for Power Project at Sydney Alliance, said she was thrilled to unearth such powerful learnings that the program partners can use to really help communities overcome barriers and take control of their energy.

“By the end of this first year of the program, we want to have helped develop a cohort of confident and enthusiastic community energy trainers who are actively assisting their communities in a real and meaningful way,” Ms Nguyen said.

“Importantly, we have also learned that training cannot be a one-off thing. We must continue to provide ongoing listening, mentoring and engagement with our community leaders so that they build confidence over time and can eventually see the difference their work is making to the lives of their community members when it comes to navigating the energy system.”

Training workshops with community leaders were completed in April and included content such as understanding bills, energy saving tips, negotiating better deals with energy retailers and simple energy safety practices. 

Leaders who attended included representatives of local Tongan, Fijian, Korean, Filipino, Arabic-speaking, South-Asian, Chinese and Nepalese communities.

The next stage of the Voices for Power ‘Train the Trainer’ Project is the co-design of training content to ensure it meets broader community needs while also identifying specific delivery and interest areas for different groups. This will then be tested as a pilot to ensure training offers real value before full rollout. 

The broader program is scheduled to run until December 2021. For more information about the program visit www.sydneyalliance.org.au/voicesforpower

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