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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 November 2021) . . Page.. 3216 ..

COVID has brought with it huge increases in demand for social services, as people have lost their incomes, and those who went into this crisis without an income were pushed even further into the margins, into extreme circumstances, especially while the federal government continued to drop social security payments.

The Vital Signs report released this week found that while we have the highest income per capita here in the ACT, more than 38,000 of our friends and neighbours still live in poverty. These people are more likely to be living with a disability, be single parents, or an older person still in the rental market. Sometimes the higher-than-average incomes in this city can hide the precarious experiences of those on low to no incomes.

The increased demand for services driven by the lockdown has been heavily shared by our community sector. My motion responded to an open letter to the Chief Minister from the Canberra community sector peak bodies, including ACTCOSS, ACT Shelter, ATODA, the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum, the Community Housing Industry Association ACT, and the Mental Health Community Coalition, calling for increased security and supports for the sector to be able to effectively respond.

In my conversations with these organisations, it was clear that while demand for community services had dramatically increased, the sector was under strain without adequate resourcing. My motion acknowledged the contribution of the sector and called on the government to examine the financial support and security to community sector organisations during this period.

The community sector is an essential service in this city. Its health is important for our economy; more importantly, it is important for ensuring that our community is safe, connected and cared for.

Community sector workers are some of the lowest paid workers in our city. The fact that they have been pivotal to our response is indicative of the need to consider how we can best build a resilient community sector into the future. This is an important area of work as we begin the social recovery from COVID. We must ensure that we are all well equipped to respond to future social crises with a strong relationship between the sector and government.

Integral to this is ensuring that our community services are reasonably funded and provided with security of funding so that they can attract and retain talent and build organisational knowledge and strength. We need strategic and considered thought as to how to best support this sector to develop, attract and retain a professional, appropriately remunerated community sector workforce. I look forward to assisting the government in undertaking this important work.

Once again I thank Minister Stephen-Smith for the response and all members of this Assembly for joining me in thanking and supporting our invaluable community sector.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and

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