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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 November 2021) . . Page.. 3211 ..

Community sector organisations—COVID-19 pandemic lockdown

Ministerial statement

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (10.34): On Thursday, 16 September 2021 the Assembly passed a resolution about community sector support through the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The ACT government committed to report back to the Assembly on the resolution by 10 November.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role that the non-government sector plays during crises and emergencies. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, community organisations rallied support to meet the needs of both existing and new clients, as well as their local communities.

We know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on people who are already vulnerable. Now, more than ever, vulnerable Canberrans must be able to reach out and get help when they need it. For many, the first place they will turn to is their trusted services.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the ACT community sector through the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Their willingness to respond, adapt and continue service delivery in difficult and challenging times has been truly amazing. Community organisations have stepped up to help their communities, to shift to new models of service delivery, to channel information to communities and to advocate for those people who are most in need.

During the lockdown ACT community sector organisations have responded to significant increases in demand for services, including crisis responses. In responding to this increased demand, they have provided much-needed service to the community and to the most vulnerable Canberrans, through the toughest period in our city’s history.

The ACT government is recognising this much-needed support through an additional $75 million funding boost in the 2021-22 budget. This will support those most in need and strengthen the partnership between government and the community sector. This includes new funding to expand homelessness services, increased community and multicultural sector funding, and more support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans.

Now, more than ever, we see government and the community sector working together in true partnership. The ACT government has continued to meet with community partners, in COVID-safe ways, throughout this period. Online forums, sector updates via email and newsletters, and, where safe and appropriate, service visits, have been vital to continue the flow of information about the needs of the sector through this difficult period. These mechanisms have also provided an opportunity for information sharing to support government efforts.

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