November 21-23 2023: The Inaugural National Multicultural Health and Wellbeing Conference

Reflections of the Inaugural Conference by GSNV’s Policy & Projects Coordinator Malavika Vasanth

As a representative of the Genetic Support Network of Victoria, the National Multicultural Health and Wellbeing Conference offered a valuable opportunity to gain insights and perspectives that will significantly inform our approach to genetic support within diverse communities. The conference’s emphasis on the importance of lived experiences, cultural sensitivity, and collaboration resonates deeply with the core principles of our organization. 

The Hon. Andrew Giles MP’s genuine surprise at the size of the conference echoed my amazement. His acknowledgment of the pandemic exposing significant barriers emphasized the need for more listening, collaboration, and understanding. Dr. Jan Fizzell’s recounting of the extensive work done during the pandemic, creating over 2,000 resources in diverse languages, left me in awe. It made me realize that healthcare is more than just facts; it’s about genuinely connecting with communities and understanding that a health condition goes beyond a translated fact sheet. 

Nagham Al-knani, or Nani, as she’s fondly known, stole the show for me. Her keynote speech, sharing her journey as a refugee in Australia, was a gut-punch of reality. From the heartbreaking instances of racism her children faced to her tireless efforts in welcoming and helping new migrants in Tasmania, Nani’s story embodied resilience and hope. It was a stark reminder that behind every statistic and policy discussion, there are individuals with stories that need to be heard. These personal stories shared during the conference, particularly those of refugees and migrants, have provided a nuanced understanding of the unique challenges and barriers they face in accessing healthcare, including genetic support services. Learning from experiences like Nani’s journey has underscored the need for our network to tailor its support programs to accommodate the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences of those seeking genetic assistance. 

The conference’s focus on collaboration and co-design is particularly relevant to our work. Understanding the importance of engaging with multicultural communities to co-create genetic support initiatives is pivotal. The call to encourage diverse voices in research aligns with our commitment to ensuring that our programs are not only culturally competent but also rooted in the experiences and needs of the communities we serve. 

And oh, the therapy dogs and massages! A brilliant touch. It was like a breath of fresh air amid intense discussions. Interacting with those furry therapists provided a moment of relaxation and camaraderie. It highlighted a thoughtful understanding that health isn’t just about physical well-being; it’s about mental and emotional wellness too. 

As I reflect on the conference, I see this as a pivotal moment at GSNV to enhance our strategies, deepen our cultural competence, and strengthen our commitment to providing accessible and personalized genetic support services for individuals from diverse backgrounds. The learnings from the conference will undoubtedly guide our efforts in making genetic health information and assistance more equitable and inclusive for all. 

In retrospect, The National Multicultural Health and Wellbeing Conference wasn’t just an event; it was an invitation to join a collective effort to create a healthcare system that truly serves everyone. 


The GSNV is committed to equitable health access for all. Read about the GSNV Diversity Statement

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