Culturally diverse communities lack energy confidence

Research reveals culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) name confidence as the biggest barrier to taking charge of their energy.

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. 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.

Forty-four leaders from 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 the next phase in turning these leaders into “energy experts” and advocates for members of their own communities.

What did the Voices for Power Project uncover?

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 a lack of knowledge but confidence.

The project uncovered people’s confidence to exercise their rights and navigate the energy industry as the largest barrier, with one hundred percent of leaders citing it as the primary barrier to engaging in energy within their communities.

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.

Turning learnings into actions

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 off these key learnings from the focus groups.

“We know how important it is for members of all our communities to access information in a culturally-specific and sensitive way to help them make informed decisions about their energy needs, advocate for more affordable energy and access support if they need it,” said Jon Briskin, Executive General Manager, Retail at Origin.

“This is one of the reasons we are proud to play a part in this important program and we always encourage people to reach out and have a chat with their energy retailer to discuss what help is available.”

Thuy Linh Nguyen, Project Lead of the Voices for Power Project at Sydney Alliance 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,” 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”.

What’s next in store for the project?

All training workshops were completed in April with community leaders. Each workshop covered a range of energy topics 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. Ensuring the content meets broader community needs whilst identifying specific delivery and interest areas for different groups. Once all content is final the project will start a pilot-test to make sure the training offers real value before full roll out.

Want to learn more?

For more information about the program visit www.sydneyalliance.org.au/voicesforpower

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