This is an opportunity for me to say thank you to the Jagajaga community. This has been a time of anxiety, uncertainty and, for too many, great hardship. Like many of us in this place during this time, I’ve been reaching out to my community via the phone, via social media and via emails to check in on how they’re coping with our vastly different circumstances, and I have been so relieved and heartened by what I’ve heard and by the approach people are taking. People have been respectful of the public health advice and of the need for restrictions on our movements. They’ve been looking out for one another and reaching out to more vulnerable community members. People are buying groceries for those who can’t go out. They’re putting up rainbow signs and teddy bears in the windows to try to lift all of our spirits.
I particularly want to thank the Austin Hospital and the staff there, who have been on the frontline. Since day one of this crisis the Austin has reorganised itself to be able to run a COVID clinic, a hotline and, of course, treat COVID patients, and I have heard nothing but praise for all of its efforts. Its biggest fan is 94-year-old Maureen. Maureen was treated at the Austin for COVID-19 and she has successfully recovered. After she was discharged from hospital, her son contacted me to make sure I knew just how grateful she was to everyone at the Austin and to us and to make sure her appreciation was recorded in the parliament. So, Maureen, good on you for what is clearly a strong fighting spirit and constitution, and please know that your thanks have been recorded.
Of course, it’s not just the Austin. Jagajaga is home to a strong medical precinct, and the work the Austin has done has been supported by our other hospitals: the Repat, the ONJ cancer centre, the Mercy and Warringal Private Hospital. Each one of these have done their part to ensure their patients have been well supported and our health system is ready to deal with this crisis, and I thank them all. Our community health centres, Banyule Community Health and healthAbility, have continued their work providing frontline services to some of the most vulnerable people, who have needed them more than ever. Thank you. Banyule Support & Information Centre in the mall in West Heidelberg has been an essential support. Also in the mall, Himilo have continued their essential work supporting our Somali community.
Members of one of our local footy teams, the North Heidelberg Bulldogs, have been out and about delivering groceries to older people who have been isolated without other support.
These are just some of the examples of the way our community has pulled together and shown kindness, compassion and strength in what is an incredibly difficult time, and I’m certainly not the first to observe that this crisis has shown us how the people on our front line have been undervalued by our society. The people working in aged and disability care have continued their work supporting their clients, often with uncertainty about new procedures and anxiety about their access to PPE. Our supermarket workers have dealt with shortages on the shelves, fights over toilet paper, product limits and anxious and, unfortunately, sometimes rude customers. Our childcare workers, who can’t physically distance themselves from our babies and our toddlers, have continued to provide love, care and support. I’ve said in this place before that they deserve a pay rise and I say it again.
There are the teachers in our kindergartens and in our schools. I had the pleasure last week to talk directly with a number of our principals and check in on how their schools have been going with remote learning. I was really pleased to hear from all of them that they had adapted well, that they were doing a mix of online learning and that, as well as that, teachers and the school community were continuing to reach out to parents to check in on how they’re going with a totally new situation. Parents, you have done a great job. Your kids probably won’t tell you this, but you are heroes.
Our community has rallied around local businesses. Our cafes and restaurants have reorganised themselves. I know that, for many people, that takeaway coffee, sandwich or curry that they’ve got in the middle of the day has provided a welcome respite from what has otherwise been a difficult time at home. Of course, we’re not done yet. We need to rebuild. We need to keep safe. We need to continue to look out for one another and respect the need for ongoing social distancing. I say to my community: I will be here for you as we continue this work. I know that we will get through this time if we continue to pull together.