Over the last three weeks around 13 million Australians in four states and territories have been subject to COVID-19 lockdowns as the fast-moving Delta variant made its way into our communities.
Although necessary for the health of our country, lockdowns, like in Greater Sydney, have wide-reaching and severe impacts.
To get through this and ensure the best outcome, we must focus on the things we can control, and the ways we can positively influence the financial, physical, and emotional health of our people.
The deeply disturbing anti-lockdown protest last Saturday, was simply not the right approach. Instead to me, this act has reiterated the vital importance of distributing clear and accessible community health messages and ensuring financial support for our most vulnerable as we continue to fight this outbreak.
Unfortunately, despite strong community compliance with COVID-19 protocols, some of our states most culturally diverse Local Government Areas (LGAs) have been hardest hit by the latest outbreak.
Consequently, I have been working in collaboration with many NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP) and consortium members to secure a broadening of support offered.
As part of this, I recently joined Elfa Moraitakis, CEO, SydWest Multicultural Service and Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO, in calling on the government to remove the bar on disaster payments for those on social security. We also called for the government to support ACOSS's request to increase social security benefits to $475 per week and reconsider a more collaborative approach to supporting our western-Sydney communities.
Despite the need for additional supports, I warmly welcome the $6 million dollar emergency support package for people seeking asylum that was announced by the NSW government last week and congratulate everyone involved in advocating for this funding.
This package will be key in ensuring that specialist migrant and settlement providers can continue addressing the urgent needs of vulnerable temporary visa holders who are experiencing great hardship.
In addition to the need of fiscal support, special attention needs to be paid to what information is shared with the public and how it is shared, particularly for linguistically diverse communities.
We know that community leaders are a vital asset and ambassadors for peer-to-peer communication that keeps newcomers and other diverse communities safe.
I have reached out to relevant government and civic leadership to share some of the SSI Group’s community insights, feedback, and suggestions on future COVID-19 messaging.
This has involved joining hundreds of Western Sydney community leaders to share our concerns regarding the evolving situation with Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke MP and Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
Earlier in the month Western Sydney MRC, CORE CS, Metro Assist, and SSI also met with Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian MP and several NSW Health and NSW Police representatives at the Southwest Sydney Multicultural Leaders Forum.
I would like to commend our frontline staff, NSP member organisations, and the wider multicultural and community services sector for all their efforts to support our communities at the present, and as we look ahead to the future.
Please don’t forget to visit our multicultural focused COVID-19 information portal to read plain, easy-to-understand information on COVID-19, vaccinations and the various testing, tracing, and compliance protocols.