Government websites and press conferences, traditional media and family and friends working in the health sector are the sources that most Victorians are turning to for news about the coronavirus pandemic.
Federation University research before the second wave of the pandemic struck last month found Victorians were searching firstly for the health effects of COVID-19, the spread of the pandemic, and restrictions and limitations on movement.
But they felt there were ways that information could be better distributed to the community, offering ideas for leaflets in letterboxes, community noticeboards, availability of information in different languages, and even a five minute broadcast at a certain time each day through all media wrapping up vital information for the public.
Federation University Australia's Researching Adult and Vocational Education (RAVE) group surveyed adults about how they learned about four specific pieces of information - health, restrictions and closures, the progress of the pandemic nationally and internationally, and financial provisions.
"People's understanding of health issues, and to a lesser extent the progress of the pandemic, had increased considerably over the period March to late June, with 83 per cent - health - and 76 per cent - pandemic progress - reporting a high level of understanding by late June," said Professor Erica Smith said.
Professor Smith said it was important to learn lessons from the current pandemic so communication could be improved in similar situations in the future.
"I'm always interested about how people learn about things, if what's being done to inform people is designed correctly and how they feel they best learn about it," she said.
"The problem is people don't really know whether what's being done is effective or not, or even how people are finding out and if it's the best way."
The survey is still running and Professor Smith is keen to crunch the data on the most recent responses as the second wave has taken hold throughout metropolitan Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, regional Victoria.
Professor Smith said the early data showed television government announcements and press conferences were reported as the most important media sources, with t he Victoria government's website also important for restrictions and closures information, and health agency websites - including the World Health Organization - for the progress of the pandemic.
She was heartened that social media was only a minor source of information, with most saying they preferred to rely on official sources.
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Professor Smith said she thought restriction of movement might have ranked higher in people's searches, but given it was the early days of the pandemic it was perhaps understandable that people wanted to know more about the health impacts of the virus at that time.
But the new data could be different and the survey is still open online.
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