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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1500 ..

communities contribute much to our city’s culture and lifestyle. We benefit from this diversity in our businesses, organisations, religions and lifestyles, and now it is our turn to give back.

Many ACT residents need our compassion, care and empathy right now as they struggle with loved ones living in some of the hardest-hit and worst-affected countries in the world. As Ms Orr points out, people in the Indian and South Asian communities in the ACT have already lost loved ones and wait anxiously for news on others who are unwell. The effect of distance has its own toll, with people in our community feeling helpless to assist family and friends in India and elsewhere and are suffering their own anguish and despair, let alone grief and heartbreak.

The federal government’s response to the situation falls far short of addressing the reality being faced by Australian citizens in India and by people in our own communities. Now, more than ever, our Indian community needs our care, support and compassion. It is abhorrent that the federal government has imposed such harsh penalties, preventing Australian citizens from returning home from India.

I welcome that there will be some limited repatriation flights for people returning to Australia from these worst-affected nations after the ban is lifted in two days. I acknowledge that we need to continue our excellent response in Australia to the pandemic. However, as we all now live with the realisation that COVID-19 is not going away, there is a significant way to go to addressing the ongoing health and security of the Australian population, alongside effective logistical arrangements and quarantine facilities to allow the thousands of residents overseas to return home. We should not be leaving Australians stranded in some of the worst-affected areas of the world during a global health crisis. I support Ms Orr’s motion to write to the commonwealth government calling for expanded quarantine facilities.

We need to consider what we as a community can do: firstly, support those living in our communities who are anxious, grieving, frustrated and feeling more isolated than ever before. Let’s ensure that these people know who to contact for support and counselling and what resources are available. I thank the Minister for Mental Health for outlining these in her speech.

Secondly, we need to consider what we as a country can do to improve the situation for those suffering this pandemic in India and South Asia. Indian hospitals are desperate for medical supplies and equipment. I support Ms Orr’s motion to call on the ACT government to consider what medical supplies and assistance can be provided to workers.

Across all regions of the ACT we have people in our communities who have loved ones in COVID-19 ravaged countries. I encourage all Canberrans to be kind and thoughtful and offer support and assistance where you can. Our reputation as the lucky country has never rung more true. We have been spared the worst of the pandemic to date; but in a strange irony of distance and closed borders, the pandemic is affecting many people in our community, perhaps not physically but emotionally, and it is taking its toll. I support this motion by Ms Orr.

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