Community resilience in the face of Government failure

Tonight Abigail gave a powerful Adjournment speech about the absolutely abysmal job this LNP Government has done at looking after our communities during crisis after crisis.

Abigail said:

During the April parliamentary break I had the privilege of making a journey through the Northern Rivers and down through the top half of the State. It was immediately after the devastation that had been wrought by the flooding in the area. I witnessed first-hand the resilience and good nature of people who were so clearly doing it tough. In Byron Bay I had the pleasure of meeting with Anne and Julie, the founders of The SHIFT Project. The project seeks to disrupt the vicious and dangerous cycle of women's homelessness by providing unique individual support and education for at-risk women in a safe residential environment. Anne has spent more than 30 years working with community organisations around the country. Through her experience she identified a clear and devastating gap in housing options for women.

The SHIFT Project seeks to foster emotional and physical wellbeing for the women they help and empower them to regain their lives, reconnect with community and achieve their full potential. In my discussions with Anne and Julie it became clear how deeply they care about this project and for the women they help. It is a mammoth undertaking without any financial assistance from the Government. I travelled next to Wardell, where I met with the incredible, tireless and effective volunteers of the Wardell Community Organised Resilience Effort, also known as WardellCORE. It operates out of the Wardell District War Memorial Hall. Since the floods devastated their community, the volunteers have been working full-time to coordinate a community hub for resilience and recovery. They were facilitating donations to those in need and have also been responsible for the provision of support to the community by a mental health qualitied social worker, a service that is often overlooked during disaster relief.

WardellCORE has become a gathering place and community hub for all residents and volunteers, and during my visit I was struck by how important its work has been in the face of an inadequate Government response. Once I left the flood-impacted areas and continued my journey south, the ways that hardship manifested changed, but the theme of Government abandonment of communities was a constant presence. I heard repeatedly of the devastating pressures of skyrocketing rents and property prices, job vacancies and empty shopfronts because workers and families are unable to find housing close to their place of employment. Faced with a literal total absence of public transport options, it was not economical for them to purchase, maintain and pay the running and fuel costs of a car to drive the vast distances to and from work and home every day.

I also heard distressing tales of workers resorting to sleep in their cars so they could maintain a connection to employment and community and community services where those were available. In Port Macquarie, where the housing pressures were particularly severe, I heard there was not a single homeless service available. It is an appalling failure of this Government and a devastating illustration of the effect of its two-pronged approach to governing, driving more and more people into precarity by pursuing economic policies that advantage rent‑seeking and profit-seeking, exploitative practices for the top end of town, while ripping out the social safety net from people who are most vulnerable and precarious.

Over the past few weeks and months, I have participated in countless inquiries detailing the litany of Coalition failures and abandonment of communities, such as a public transport privatisation crusade that has seen people with disability left behind or schools being underfunded. Planning for future enrolment is falling by the wayside in favour of pork-barrelling of school upgrades and amenities, with the Government claiming record spending on education with no meaningful benefit to communities most in need, continuously prioritising announcement over accountability. Workers are labouring under an onerous and arbitrary public sector salary cap amidst soaring inflation and depressing wages growth across our society at a time when corporate profits are soaring. Nurses and teachers are screaming out for support, for ratios and fair wages and conditions.

These problems have been brewing for years, if not decades, and the Government is more interested in waging a culture war against unions and the workers they represent rather than taking responsibility for the mess it has made. Recent concessions made by the Premier are hollow and will have little positive impact on public sector workers or, for that matter, the private sector wages that are so influenced by the public sector. What does all that add up to? Everything that I saw on my trip and everything that I have seen in this place since adds up to a Coalition Government that has forgotten, or has chosen to ignore, the role of government. It gave up long ago on trying to improve the lives of the people of New South Wales. I, for one, cannot wait to see its back next year.

 

For the full transcript, see Hansard here.

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