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November 24th, 2020
Cities • Legitimacy • Innovation • Delivery
Aleem Ali CEO, Welcoming Australia

Nobody Left Behind: solutions for the community, by the community

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.@welcomingaus CEO @aleemshaunali shares how local councils across Australia have been supporting community needs during #COVID19

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.@BgoFoodshare @WarrnamboolCity & @cityofmelville are only some local councils identifying place-based solutions to a global challenge

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What should inclusive #COVID19 recovery involve in diverse communities, and how can governments facilitate that recovery? @aleemshaunali

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More than 1.4 million people in Australia, including people seeking asylum, international students, and workers on temporary visas, were not eligible for employment-related income support measures that have been implemented by the federal government in response to COVID-19.

As various industries face significant downturns and unemployment rises, community organisations and support agencies have been inundated with requests for emergency food and financial support. Welcoming Australia, an NGO committed to advancing communities where people of all backgrounds have equal opportunity to belong, contribute and thrive, is one of many organisations working to address this challenge.

Funding from the South Australian Government and generous donors has enabled us to minimise financial hardship and reduce the risk of homelessness by paying household bills and providing food parcels for people with no income support in the city of Adelaide. On a national scale, our Welcoming Cities network of more than 50 Local Councils representing 30 percent of the Australian population, has also been pledging to provide financial or in-kind support to people who don't qualify for safety net measures. In practical terms, this support is diverse and contextualised to community needs.

Community Cohesion - The City of Greater Bendigo

The City of Greater Bendigo and Bendigo Foodshare developed their response after witnessing an increase in grocery hoarding, which was preventing emergency relief providers from sourcing enough food for the most vulnerable people in the community.

They identified three critical needs:

  • Educating and encouraging the community to look out for each other, especially vulnerable groups;

  • Sharing information and resources about where people could go for help; and,

  • Communicating local good news stories to offer hope and inspiration.

These needs informed the Help Your Neighbour campaign, which involved the development of a Facebook page, radio advertising and establishing a volunteer network. Council tasked volunteers with identifying and connecting vulnerable people to support services, including people who traditionally haven't required or needed to access welfare. Initial assessment indicates residents are feeling more connected to their neighbours, and the community is developing increased connectivity and cohesion.

Supporting Locals - Warrnambool City Council

Warrnambool City Council established a support plan to enable businesses to remain open and encourage the community to 'buy local'. At the outset of the pandemic, the Council's Economic Development Team identified the industries most likely to be affected and focused the plan on stimulating the local economy through a range of initiatives.

Support has included a mentoring program, marketing support, grants, and financial assistance and subsidies for parking, rent and rate relief. Initiatives extended not only to established businesses but also start-ups, which has created new jobs and worked to maximise business innovation and diversity.

Early indicators suggest that the benefits have been far-reaching with employment maintained, increased local business and enhanced community pride.

Tech Innovation - Melville City Council

Melville City Council harnessed the power of technology to create a Virtual Community Centre to keep people connected during COVID-19 lockdown measures. The City has a strong culture of outdoor and community recreation, including water sports, golf, bush-walking, and library and museum visits. These activities had to be restricted, and in many cases stopped, during the pandemic.

Council recognised the significant impact this would have on their communities and developed an online space to host and facilitate many of the groups that would have met in-person at community centres around the City. Book clubs, writers' groups and art workshops were supported to shift their activities online. Additionally, Council hosted workshops demonstrating how to use video conferencing software, providing phone support to assist people through the process.

[Council] developed an online space to host and facilitate many of the groups that would have met in-person at community centres around the City.

With the increased shift to technology-based solutions, the City of Melville has been working to address digital access through up-cycling and the distribution of phones, tablets and laptops. Support is also being provided for artists and businesses to transition to online delivery.

Looking ahead

These local councils are only a small sample of a vast number of municipalities who are identifying place-based solutions to a global challenge. Governments are recognising the need to ensure that the ongoing crisis doesn't further erode social cohesion, grossly diminish economic participation and heighten exclusion.

Migrant workers, refugees, people seeking asylum and international students are part of the heartbeat of our local communities. Our neighbourhoods are enriched by their contributions, both culturally and economically. As an organisation committed to advancing an Australia where people of all backgrounds have equal opportunity to belong, contribute and thrive - Welcoming Australia strongly believes that nobody should be left behind regardless of the circumstance or crisis at hand.

The question we must continue to consider, and seek to answer, is 'what should inclusive recovery involve in diverse communities, and how can governments facilitate that recovery?'

Written by:

Aleem Ali CEO, Welcoming Australia
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