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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Opinion: Canberrans have risen to the challenge

It has been a difficult year but Canberrans have risen to the challenge and cared for one another, says Labor Senator for the ACT, Katy Gallagher.

This year has been a difficult one for Canberra. We began the year with smoke from the bushfires forcing us to remain indoors, and shortly afterwards the COVID-19 pandemic required us to physically distance and interrupted the patterns of our daily lives. However, the glimmer of hope through these difficult times has been the way in which the Canberrans have risen to the challenge and cared for one another.

Throughout the unprecedented summer bushfires Canberrans provided shelter and assistance to those fleeing devastation. Canberrans opened their homes and their wallets to those in need and vowed to visit fire-affected regions to assist with their economic recovery. The crisis brought out the very best in our community and we have seen this spirit again during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canberrans have been among the best in Australia at flattening the curve of infections. The very fact that people have properly followed restrictions is itself an act of care towards those vulnerable members our community whose health depends on us physically distancing. It has been heartening to see Canberrans paradoxically come together as a community by remaining physically distanced.  

In a similar vein we have witnessed the formation of ‘mutual aid’ networks across the ACT, with community members supporting each other in times of need. These networks have facilitated acts of assistance and generosity, such as shopping for an elderly neighbour, providing food staples to those who cannot afford or access them, and even just calling up an isolated neighbour to check in on them and chat. 

Any talk of the great work Canberrans have done would be remiss without thanking frontline essential workers, though. We have come to appreciate the importance of many frontline workers whose contributions have, until now, not been properly valued. These include nurses, cleaners, retail assistants, bus drivers, and many other essential occupations. I thank those Canberrans who have put their own health at risk to keep our city ticking along.

As home to just under 39 per cent of Australia’s public servants, Canberra has been uniquely placed during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some public servants, such as Centrelink workers, have been on the frontlines many others have played important roles behind the scenes. I have also been especially proud of the willingness of nearly 6,000 public servants to move to Services Australia to help process payments for those who have lost their jobs.

So, whether you have worked on the frontlines, participated in a mutual aid network, helped support the COVID-19 response in the public service, or simply followed physical distancing restrictions, I want to say a heartfelt thank you. Thank you for caring for your fellow Canberrans and making Canberra the amazing community to live in that it is.  

We must remember that we are not through this crisis yet, though. As restrictions begin to gradually ease let’s keep up the good work by keeping a physical distance of 1.5 metres and practising proper hand hygiene. Together we will get through this and be an even stronger community for having done so.

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