Page 133 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 9 February 2022

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comprehensive economic update. It was also really good to hear Minister Steel talking about active travel infrastructure which will support our ongoing age-friendly city plan and community recovery.

As the Chief Minister has outlined, economic recovery is critical for the ACT and the funding of services that we all rely upon. As Minister for Mental Health, I understand the protective benefit that financial security has for people’s mental wellbeing. Not worrying about the rent, buying the new school uniforms or being able to put some money to one side helps protect our mental health.

In addition to economic recovery, we need to think about social recovery. The Chief Minister has outlined some of the economic challenges and opportunities that we face, but it is worth remembering that the pandemic has not just left economic damage; it has dramatically changed all of our lives. We have all missed things: long-planned holidays, family births, family funerals, social lives. Of course we need to make an economic recovery, but we also need social recovery. Social recovery is crucial to our communities and our lives as Canberrans.

Social recovery does not mean going back to how things were before the pandemic as though it never happened. So-called normal life prior to the pandemic was not as inclusive or as equitable as some in our community needed. In rebuilding our social connections and strengthening community resilience, we have the opportunity to create the Canberra we want to see and to build a better normal.

I have said in this place before that we need to progress to a place where people can do the things that matter to them and are able to pursue their interests and ambitions, where all people feel connected and valued in their local community and can contribute in a way that matters to them. This is the social fabric of our community.

As we repair that social fabric in the wake of COVID, we need to look at how we make social recovery something that we think about before the next crisis is at our door—because we know that, with our changing climate, there will be hard times in our future, including bushfires, smoke, heatwaves, drought, storms and pandemics. To be ready for a future with a greater degree of uncertainty and risk, we must be a government that listens to feedback and is a genuine partner in community solutions.

Government is not always the answer to every problem, as shown by the many great things that our community sector and the Canberra business community have done over the past two years to support those who needed it most. However, government should always be there as a community leader, providing a reliable shoulder to lean on and facilitate connections. Government may not be the expert in every area of service delivery, but we do not just check out and leave it to the private market to ensure that we have essential services for the public good.

The ACT government is supplying rapid antigen tests to in-home disability support and aged-care workers and to NGOs who deliver essential services such as domestic and family violence crisis and homelessness services. We are not just offering to reimburse privately sourced tests that are almost impossible to find or looking to take it out of people’s NDIS plans, as the commonwealth government has said it will do.

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