We are all in this together, but for some, the stakes are as high as it gets
28 April 2020 at 2:51 pm
To succeed, we must lift up the partnership with the community sector, business and unions, working with government and researchers, to focus on delivering for people and communities most at risk, writes Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of Australian Council of Social Service.
With questions abounding about how and when to lift lock down restrictions put in place to protect our health, we must not ignore that the answers impact many of us differently.
As the prime minister has said, no one is immune to this virus. But the reality is, its impacts are vast and varied across the community.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders are doing all they can to ward off the unique devastation of the virus at risk of taking hold amongst communities. People with chronic health conditions, older people, people with disability, people without a permanent visa, children, the LGBTIQ communities, people with poor literacy skills and barriers to digital access, and others are all living the reality of different and challenging impacts.
For people on low incomes, especially people without a safe, secure place to “stay at home”, this virus is a harsh double blow. The loss of paid work, with an increasingly tough job market on the horizon, and the serious health risks are both deeply scarring.
The zero sum game of pitting tackling the health crisis against the economic crisis, grossly underestimates our ability to work together as a community to tackle both aspects impacting on our lives.
We can look after one another to get through this, without leaving people most at risk behind.
The increased JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments and the JobKeeper payments are examples of the ways we can work together through government to keep each other safe.
Of course, these payments don’t currently help everyone. Temporary migrants, including asylum seekers and international students are being left to destitution, without access to JobSeeker, JobKeeper or Medicare and this needs to be urgently fixed.
In the community sector, we are doing all we can to help. The community sector provides essential services, including domestic violence, homelessness and food relief services, and is adapting to the unfolding situation, faced with decreased donations, as well as serious risks to frontline workers and those we help.
There is a great deal of diversity in the people who are reaching out to the community sector during this crisis – people who are physically isolated, single parents who’ve lost paid work, asylum seekers left out of the government’s stimulus, people with disability cut off from regular supports, people with existing mental health issues. What they have in common, is that they are largely those who are feeling the harshest impacts of this health, social and economic crisis.
We need to draw lessons from the past. During the HIV crisis, governments worked closely with community sector organisations that had trusted relationships with people most at risk.
Science and evidence was at the centre of the work. There was a recognition that a community-driven response was required, working in close partnership with governments and researchers and properly resourced. Community leadership, properly and equitably funded, was central to success.
In the COVID crisis, we need the same approach. To succeed, we must lift up the partnership with the community sector, business and unions, working with government and researchers, to focus on delivering for people and communities most at risk, on all fronts.
We need to build on the community strengths, relationships of trust with people most isolated, facing the greatest health and financial risks, with First Nations leadership playing a central role.
Yes, we are all in this together, but for some, the stakes are as high as it gets.
For more information visit ACOSS’ Coronavirus Information Hub.