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(Dis)connection in times of social distancing: a round table discussion

Virtual Round Table - Monday, 31st August 2020 

On Monday, 31st of August a multidisciplinary team of RMIT researchers hosted a virtual round table discussion exploring the impact of COVID-19 on migrant and refugee support services. A particular focus of the session was unpacking how digital technology has been used to maintain connections during the pandemic. The panel featured experts from Footscray Community Arts Centre, Migrant Resource Centre North West Region, Hume City Council, Darebin City Council and Community Hubs Australia.  

The round table explored each participant organisation’s experience of COVID-19 addressing the following questions:  

  • How has COVID-19 impacted the way the organisation engages with refugees and migrants? 
  • How has the organisation used technology to maintain a connection with refugee and migrant communities? 
  • What opportunities and challenges have the organisation experienced maintaining the connection with refugee and migrant communities? 

The session was convened by Professor Hariz Halilovich, Leader, Enabling Capability Platform Social Change Research Network Migration, Mobility and Security (MM&S RN) and the discussion was facilitated by Dr Naomi Whiteside. They were joined by the (Dis)connection project team of RMIT researchers, including Professor Vanessa Cooper, Dr Tuba Boz, Dr Elizabeth Tait, and Dr Huan Vo Tran.   

The session attracted over 30 participants and a vibrant discussion ensued uncovering the significant challenges faced by participant organisations and the communities they serve. They have had to move their services online overnight to ensure they could continue to engage with their communities. Despite the challenges this posed, our discussion highlighted stories of connection and resilience. Organisations are now looking forward and integrating digital technologies into their service provision as they plan for a post-COVID future. The (Dis)connection research team is now developing a research project to examine themes uncovered from the session in greater depth.

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