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CALD communities name confidence as biggest barrier to taking charge of energy, research reveals

Forty-four community leaders from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds have shared powerful insights about how they can help their communities take charge of their energy bills, as a new, first-of-its-kind program moves into its next phase.

Delivered in language, in culture and in community, the Voices for Power ‘Train the Trainer’ Project seeks to turn leaders from several different cultural and religious communities across Sydney into “energy experts” and advocates for their communities by delivering train-the-trainer workshops. The $200,000 pilot program is a partnership between energy companies Jemena, AGL, Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Origin, and is being delivered by civil society coalition Sydney Alliance.

As part of the research phase, throughout March four in-depth focus groups were held with leaders from local Tongan, Fijian, Korean, Filipino, Arabic-speaking, South-Asian, Chinese and Nepalese communities to discuss people’s current understanding and perceptions of energy, topics of interest and ideas on how best to deliver this information to, and empower, their communities.

While many community leaders reported having a good existing knowledge of energy and their rights, all reported ‘confidence’ as the key concern and barrier to their communities engaging in energy. Additionally, while leaders agreed that in-language written energy materials were useful, verbal, in-person communication was preferred as the best way for communities to learn new skills and information about energy; and this needed to be delivered in a gradual and supportive manner.

Thuy Linh Nguyen, Project Lead of the Voices for Power Project at Sydney Alliance was thrilled to unearth such powerful learnings.

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

Jemena General Manager Networks Customer and Commercial, Usman Saadat, thanked community leaders for their insights and noted that program learnings would also be helpful in shaping broader customer energy literacy and support efforts within energy companies.

“By better understanding how our communities prefer to be engaged with, we can better deliver important information in a way that’s culturally sensitive and specific, and helps them to feel more empowered around their energy rights, bills, safety and accessing support if or when they need it,” he said.

The next stage of the Voices for Power ‘Train the Trainer’ Project sees all parties come together to co-design training content, ensuring it meets broader community needs while also responding to specific delivery approaches or interest areas for different groups. Key content areas will include: understanding the energy sector, bill reading and bill savings, getting a better deal and communicating with energy companies, and energy safety.

Following a pilot phase to ensure training offers real value and meets community needs, broader program rollout is scheduled to run until December 2021.

For more information on the Voices for Power ‘Train the Trainer’ Project, visit www.sydneyalliance.org.au/voicesforpower

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Community leaders and Voices for Power organisers following a recent focus group session