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Stories

HEP Hero Heang Tak

December 4, 2017

Heang Tak

Councillor with City of Greater Dandenong (former Mayor)

I have lived in Greater Dandenong for almost 20 years and I am a local lawyer and former SBS radio broadcaster.

Over the years, as an active community member and Councillor, I have had the opportunity to listen to and connect with people from all walks of life who call our city home, to listen to their needs and to support them through their challenges

The council where I work is one of the most culturally diverse in Victoria. Unfortunately, it has one of the highest notification rates of viral hepatitis B. Therefore, my community is at higher risk compared to the average Victorians and as a councillor who is elected by my electorate, I need to take this issue serious and assist them. We need to make more efforts in order to help the community particularly those who are at higher risk including people with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Around 50% of people who live with viral hepatitis B, do not know of this issue, therefore, raising awareness one of the key actions. Viral hepatitis is a preventable disease and by a series of actions, we can prevent it.

Those who are living with the disease can be treated. We’ve been helping to increasing people’s knowledge and encouraging people to visit their GPs for testing, vaccination and treatment to address viral hepatitis through collaborating with with Hepatitis Victoria in order to raise awareness among communities, particularly Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) people.

For example, in July 2016 and 2017, we celebrated World Hepatitis Day as an important day in the City of Greater Dandenong. We engaged with community and let them know to be aware of hepatitis and learnt how to protect themselves and family and friends. We provided a range of resources in many languages.

As a member of Multicultural Advisory Committee, our group meet quarterly to facilitate engagement and collaboration across all multicultural communities living in the CGD and advise council  about key community issues. Viral Hepatitis is one of the key issues, particularly among people who born in certain overseas countries.

In some cultures, stigma is a big barriers for people to talk about the disease and share their lessons. Raising awareness about the disease and sharing lived stories can be ways to break down the stigma. We need to take measures and work with relevant stakeholders in order to minimize the risk of viral hepatitis among our community.

There are a number of stakeholders including Hepatitis Victoria, Monash Health and SEMPHN who are already working in our area in terms of assisting the community on viral hepatitis and its impacts. Working together makes us stronger and every activity we do in regards with viral hepatitis is a step towards elimination.

Heang’s message to others…

I believe, organizing such events will have positive impacts to families’ (e.g. those with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds) health and wellbeing.

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