As 2020 draws to a close, I am taking this opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the past 12 months, which included not just the COVID-19 pandemic, but a devastating fire and smoke emergency.
With our diverse portfolio of community services and significant service commitment to the delivery of early childhood education and care, Communities@Work faced an uncertain future at the onset of COVID-19 and service shut-downs.
Fortunately, with assistance from the government, as well as support from our staff who voluntarily took leave and reduced work hours to help us reduce our operating costs, we were able to continue to support the community.
We have taken this opportunity to reflect and consider how we can best support our community as we recover and rebuild. I had the honour of sharing some of my thoughts at Parbery Consulting’s breakfast forum on 28 October 2020, which highlighted the importance of a community-led recovery, or as Parbery called it, a ‘care-led’ recovery.
As a member of the panel, alongside Jean Giese – CEO of Volunteering ACT, Kasy Chambers – Executive Director of Anglicare Australia, and Sam Page – CEO of Early Childhood Australia, I explored what it meant to be a community organisation in the midst of a pandemic, and discussed the topic of “NFPs and the pandemic: where are we now, what’s around the corner and what have we learned.”
Recovering from 2020
As I reflect on the past twelve months, I know we have managed to navigate our way through these difficult times because of the extraordinary people I have around me. From the Board who have given an incredible amount of time and commitment, to the Executive team who have managed their service areas in probably the toughest times of their careers, to all of Communities@work employees and volunteers who have been adaptable and committed in a time of ongoing uncertainty.
I think the success of Communities@Work can be attributed to good planning, our passionate and dedicated team, and our organisation’s ability to be agile. As Canberra’s largest not-for-profit community organisation, we provide a wide range of diverse services across early education and care, disability, seniors, training and development, and a school for disengaged young people. These services and our clients were impacted in different ways and needed different responses at different times.
As we look to the future, perhaps never has the purpose and mission of Communities@Work been more important. The impact of COVID-19 is substantial and will be felt for many months and years, exacerbating current issues and producing new and different challenges for our community to meet.
Looking forward to 2021
We have an opportunity to fix broken systems and rethink outdated models. Investment in our community will not only improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of services, but will help build a stronger, more resilient, better connected and more socially inclusive community in years to come.
A community-led recovery provides many benefits for our community and society more broadly. For instance, reducing out-of-pocket costs for services like child care will not only help struggling families today but help create systemic change, reducing financial barriers for many families and increasing paid labour force participation.
We are investing in our social infrastructure, which is vital for both the health of the economy and the wellbeing of our community.
Here are just four key projects that we are looking forward to:
- In anticipation of the growing demand for our support services will increase over the next year, we are expanding our community food pantries and associated support services in Gungahlin and Tuggeranong.
- We are upgrading and expanding our Galilee School Campus and launching our Senior Secondary College for Year 11 students, expanding to Year 12 in 2022. Our school is an essential partner in the ACT education eco-system, providing education and support for young people who have disengaged from mainstream schooling.
- We are upgrading our facilities and expanding our service offering in our disability programs in our northern and southern hubs.
- Our Community Development team are launching a new outreach and connection program to enable and empower residents to build community capacity and resilience.
As 2020 draws to a close, I look forward with hope. We are proud to have stepped up to play a leading role in supporting the ACT community in 2020 and as we prepare for an uncertain future, we are focused on helping build a better future.