A hotline established to keep Bendigo's Karen community informed about the COVID-19 pandemic has found new uses and audiences.
Bendigo Community Health Services said the hotline, run by its Karen staff, was fielding calls about everything from preparing for fire danger and flooding to how and where to get solar panels installed on homes.
The hotline has received more than 300 calls in 19 weeks.
The service - which only runs for three-and-a-half hours a day, four days a week - is estimated to have reached about 1000 people.
Bendigo Community Health Services staffer Nido said word of the hotline had spread throughout Victoria and interstate.
"It looks like we are the first to set up a hotline for Karen people," Nido said.
He said the idea came about to help Karen community members remain informed in a rapidly changing environment, in which most messaging was initially in English.
At the height of the pandemic's second wave, Nido said Karen workers called on the hotline for information about outbreaks at large central Victorian workplaces.
"A lot of Karen people wanted access to pandemic leave payment," Nido said.
Some callers wanted to know how and where to get a COVID-19 test.
More recently, Nido said some callers had been seeking information after being contacted by scammers.
Though plans for the hotline were initially temporary, Bendigo Community Health Services is thinking longer-term.
The Karen hotline can be reached on (03) 5406 1254 between 1pm and 4pm, Monday to Thursday.
A range of resources in Karen and other languages is available at bchs.com.au/blog/613-coronavirus-bendigo-refugee-resource-information-in-karen