COVID-19 response – Advocate Update: April 27, 2020

In Latrobe, across Victoria and the rest of the world the COVID-19 emergency response is impacting on people in so many ways.

I have been talking to people in the community every week. Over this last week people have continued to share their experiences with me, many of them deeply personal. People in Latrobe are struggling but they care about their health and wellbeing and they care about each other.

I have seen community members connecting with each other in new and creative ways. In some instances, people that once relied on a range of services may now be getting support directly from others in their community. In many instances health and social services are quickly changing the way they work so that they can continue to help others. This is resilience and this helps us look to the future in a positive light.

I am sure that people in Latrobe have the skills and strength to get through this time.

As in previous weeks, I continue to update the Victorian Minister for Health and the Victorian Chief Health Officer about how COVID-19 is impacting Latrobe communities and I thank you for sharing with me your experiences and suggestions.

What am I hearing.

I have continued to hear from community members and representatives from industry, government and education.

In communities, people are experiencing hardship, some with drug and alcohol addictions who are struggling without the support of their peers. With physical distancing in place it can be hard for them to look after themselves and others they care about.

In the Muslim community people would now be coming together to celebrate Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. As it was for many during Easter, it is a struggle to not be able to attend a place of worship or participate in family events.

For some families, tensions are starting to appear as they manage work and school from home, it is hard to find time away from the stresses of isolation.

Businesses are nervous, for those who were already struggling it is hard to see that things will get better any time soon. It will be a struggle for some family businesses to access the financial supports offered by Governments because of the way their businesses are structured.

Governments are funding services to change the way they provide help to people, using more technology including phone and video support. However, there will be some people who don’t have the means to access the technology and they’re afraid they will miss out on services as a result.

Legal services are expressing concern that the move to virtual activities within the court system is happening slowly. There is a risk that people will not be able to access the supports they rely on. They are looking for the system to work more effectively for everyone including offenders so that any potential harm can be minimised.

Reduced access to legal services within the mental health system is also of concern.

While these experiences are highlighting the adversity that people are experiencing, there is still a sense that these difficulties are going to end, that what we are living with now will make us stronger when it is over.

Innovations I am seeing.

Local schools, TAFE and University have encouraged teachers to demonstrate their ability to adapt and create new ways to engage with students and families. This innovation may have long lasting benefits for the education system we will experience in the future.

Community to community connections are strengthening and reliance on services is changing as a result.

Local businesses and retailers are responding to the changes by rethinking what they sell and how they sell it. They are connecting with their communities and offering new and different services that meet their customers’ different needs.

I am sharing what I am hearing.

I am continuing to share my insights and suggestions with the Victorian Minister for Health and the Chief Health Officer and in my most recent update I have highlighted my interest in the following;

• How can governments and services ensure an appropriate balance between moving to virtual service delivery and ensuring those who need these services the most have the means and skills to access them?

• What can be done to alleviate increasing stresses and tensions within households and prevent health and social issues from becoming worse?

• What can be done to accelerate the move to virtual Court services and to minimise the potential harms to offenders, including young people and children?

• What more can be done to enable incidental and opportunistic interactions between mental health patients and lawyers within the hospital system?

• With disruption and change comes opportunity. Now is the time to build on what works well, let go of what doesn’t and to create a new future for health, education and the way we do business. What can be done to ensure that the positive innovations that have been developed during the COVID-19 emergency are able to be sustained into the future?

I’m here to listen and to help our health system and governments to understand and respond to the needs of communities in Latrobe.

Please share your suggestions and experiences with me by contacting me on 1800 319 255, email or follow us on Facebook @LHAdvocate and Twitter. For more information you can go to our website

As always, be kind, be patient and stay safe.