Monday, 30 January 2017 15:46

Focus on: Cumberland talks waste in every language

Waste education officer speaking to a Dari community group as part of Cumberland's CALD waste education program. Waste education officer speaking to a Dari community group as part of Cumberland's CALD waste education program. Cumberland Council

One of the most diverse local government areas (LGA) in Sydney, Cumberland Council is a popular landing spot for migrants from all over the world.  To ensure that its diverse community is aware of the services Council provides, Cumberland ran a series of multi-lingual workshops.



Located on the eastern border of Western Sydney, Cumberland is an extraordinarily diverse area. In 2011, around half of local residents were born in a country where English was not their first language[1].

This poses a number of challenges for Council as it seeks to provide services for residents who may not have previously had access to recycling, kerbside pick-up or other collections such as e-waste.

In addition to linguistic diversity, the relatively transient nature of the Cumberland’s population (as a first stop before migrating to other areas of Sydney), compounds these challenges.

High contamination rates and increasing incidences of litter and illegal dumping in the LGA (particularly around Auburn North), demonstrated a lack of understanding about correct waste practices and Council services among Cumberland residents.

In order to address this lack of understanding, Council developed a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) waste education program in order to empower and educate residents (particularly new migrants) about the range of waste services available to them.


The program

Cumberland’s CALD waste education program ran between July and November 2016. It involved 12 workshops in nine different languages; Arabic, Dari, English, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Nepalese, Tamil and Turkish.

These languages were chosen based on speaker prevalence and the level of English proficiency within those groups.

English workshops were delivered in English as a second language (ESL) format for speakers from a range of linguistic backgrounds who were relatively proficient in English.

Council officers then recruited workshop participants by reaching out to existing groups such as local community organisations and religious groups. In this way officers were able to work with the community to find suitable venues and times.

Working with existing groups also meant that participants could be addressed in a place where they felt comfortable.

The workshops were promoted through the respective organisations or groups. However future programs will be promoted through local newspapers, newsletters, flyers and community radio to reach the wider community.

Workshops ran for between 60 and 90 minutes and participation varied from group to group with workshops attracting between eight and 39 people.

Some workshops were delivered by Cumberland Council staff, however expert waste educators were also engaged to assist with delivering the workshops in multiple languages.

The workshop style differed slightly from group to group, but each followed a similar format – outlining key issues surrounding waste management in the LGA, explaining how council was moving to address these issues, and suggesting how residents can help by using available waste services.

While the program’s objective was to reduce litter and illegal dumping, and increase recycling in the Cumberland LGA, the content focused on place making and council services.

The increasing incidences of litter and illegal dumping in the local area showed that these activities were a result of misinformation or lack of knowledge about how Cumberland’s (and Australia’s) waste management systems work.

Educators first made reference to the wonderful local area and lamented some of Auburn’s most visibly littered areas including a prominent residential area susceptible to illegal dumping.

There was an emphasis on the need for the community to work together to make Auburn township a cleaner, more pleasant place to live.

The educator then explained how Council is working to build a cleaner community, and outlined the services available to residents.

Many participants were previously unaware of Cumberland’s range of services including e-waste, problem waste, chemical clean ups and kerbside bulky waste pick up.

Participants were given printed educational materials to take home. These materials were in English, but relied on strong graphic elements to convey key messages.

Overall, 350 Cumberland residents participated in the workshops.


Top left: Nepalese community group.  Bottom left: Tamil community group listending to a presentation from a specialist waste educator.  Right: Arabic language group working on a waste and recycling activity.  Source: Cumberland Council.

Top left: Nepalese community group. Bottom left: Tamil community group listending to a presentation from a specialist waste educator. Right: Arabic language group working on a waste and recycling activity.

Source: Cumberland Council.


The limited verbal and written English skills of participants made formal evaluation challenging, however Council officers managed to take down translated comments and note levels of participation, and requests for more information.

Direct, tailored contact from Council was generally well received, as was the message of building a cleaner, more sustainable future.

The groups thanked Council for attending their meetings and indicated they were keen to have Council address them on other topics in future.

Council even received requests to visit a waste management facility so that residents could understand what happens to waste after it is collected.

Many of the workshops went overtime where participants were keen to continue discussing the issues raised.

During workshop activities, some participants were surprised to learn they had been sorting waste incorrectly in their kerb side bins.

Information about community services was the most sought after topic by most groups, and this was not limited to just waste management, or even local government services.

Participants wanted to know about a range of topics including how to use Opal cards, access childcare services, parks and swimming pools.


Learnings from the project

Cumberland Council offers the following advice to others looking to run CALD education programs.

Engaging with CALD groups directly is more important than having translated information available

This program reinforced the importance of going to community groups and speaking to them in their own language.

This is important not only to allow culturally-relevant messaging and examples, but because, certain groups may not seek out translated materials as they are not aware that such services exist in the first place.

In addition, community members from some groups, particularly elders cannot read and write.


Tailoring the program is key

Each group had different experiences with waste management and different values. Therefore it was important to cater to these differences.

The nature of face-to-face engagement allowed the educators to pick up on services or issues that were particularly salient for each group and tailor their presentation accordingly.

Face-to-face interaction also gave Council valuable insight into how each community is using Council’s services and some of the barriers it needed to overcome.


Elders are key influencers in many communities

While many funded waste management programs target families and young people, officers were quickly reminded that in many cultures grandparents and elders are the key influencers within their family and the wider community.

This was particularly apparent with the Korean language group who demonstrated a high level of respect for elders.

A number of the groups included a large number of older community members and it is hoped that this will allow messaging to have a greater flow-on effect.


Communities do not differentiate between different government departments or services

Participants in the waste workshops had many questions about Council (many not relating to waste management) and expected those questions answered.

Having basic information on other services, or representatives from other departments attend workshops might be useful in future.


Engagement with CALD communities is an intensive program that would ideally require full time staff

One of the challenges quickly recognised by Council was the transient nature and rapid turnover of many migrant communities living in Auburn and the surrounding suburbs.

Even during the five month period this program was run, Council saw a turnover in key contacts – making it difficult to know who to speak to in a particular community.

An ideal situation would be for Council to have a full-time representative who could maintain more regular engagement with each CALD group on a range of local services and issues. This would allow Council to stay abreast of changes within the community, and ensure that new residents are made aware of various services as they move into the area.

 Arabic community group, Cumberland waste education program

 Waste educator speaking with Arabic community group during the Cumberald waste education program.

Credit: Cumberland Council

For more information, contact:

Alina Tamrakar, Waste and Sustainability Officer, Cumberland Council

PO Box 118, Auburn NSW 1835

Tel: 02 9735 1310

Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2017 16:40