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Our multicultural liaison officer keeps the faith
CFA’s first multicultural liaison officer/multicultural presenter Nada El-Masri was appointed to her role in May 2016.
Nada is delivering CFA’s Home Fire Safety and Early Fire Safety programs to culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) within CFA's District 8 and possibly extending into District 9 in the future.
Some of the communities that she is engaging with include Indians, Burmese, Afghans, South Sudanese, Iranians and Indigenous Australians. Did you know that the second most common language spoken in Dandenong is Albanian and in Hampton Park it is Farsi?
Nada delivers her presentations from venues such as maternal and child health centres and AMES Australia schools where new migrants and refugees attend language classes. Nada also runs cooking safety sessions at the Cornerstone community centre in Dandenong where cooking classes are conducted.
“Networking is the foundation of my job,” said Nada. “I’m trying to open up paths to communities that perhaps haven’t been open to CFA before.
“I might turn up at an event in the Indian community and they’ll be open to me because I present as a person of faith – it doesn’t matter which faith it is. It makes me someone to trust.
“It’s all about sitting down and talking to people and understanding what the issues are.”
Nada has had the opportunity to attend the premises of the local Aboriginal cooperative and many faith sites with Dandenong Fire Brigade to familiarise themselves with the buildings and customs in the event of an emergency. With about 20 worship sites in the Dandenong area, it is hoped that more members visit these faith sites and learn about their faith and customs.
While her parents were born in Lebanon, Nada is Australian-born and admits that she and her siblings speak only a small amount of Arabic.
Nada’s CFA uniform has been specially designed for a loose fit and she always wears a headscarf.
“What I wear doesn’t make me any less an Australian or a person,” said Nada. “And I’m always in my red boots!”
As she continues to explore the opportunities and challenges in her role, she is being well supported by the Multicultural Liaison Unit of Victoria Police’s Southern Metro Region.
Leading Senior Constable Maha Sukkar has been a Multicultural Liaison Officer (MLO) for 16 years. Maha’s tasks range from going on community radio to attending local multicultural community events to deliver policing messages about drink driving, crime prevention and recruitment. She also trains police members on multicultural and faith issues.
“My main role is to educate police as they don’t always understand the community they serve,” said Maha.
Nada will likely find herself in a similar position, working between CFA members and the multicultural communities they serve.
“We can’t make assumptions about what our communities need and want from us.” she said. “The more our brigades get out and meet their communities, the more they’ll learn how to best serve them. The more we know in advance, the better prepared we’ll be when we turn up to an incident in terms of cultural respect.
“By engaging, understanding and educating our multicultural communities, we’ll have a better chance of them following fire safety instructions and advice and reducing the risk of injury or death.
“We may not get to everyone, but hopefully those that we do get to will spread the messages about home fire safety and how they can keep themselves safe.”
This story is part of CFA's celebration of Cultural Diversity Week. Read more here.