Joining forces to support Tasmania’s recovery (The Advocate Talking Point, 06/09/20)

As well as supporting our members to respond to COVID-19, eleven peak bodies shared what we were seeing — the good and the not so good — and considered how we can assist in supporting Tasmania’s recovery.

Increased financial stress; increased numbers of job seekers; increased health impacts particularly related to isolation, anxiety and broader mental health; and decreased volunteering and community engagement through mechanisms such as sports or arts and culture have commonly featured in our member feedback. As organisations we have all experienced staff, service and budget impacts.

However, we’ve also seen new and beneficial ways of living and working emerging with increased physical activity, less commuting and smart and quick engagement via digital platforms.

Traditionally, disaster recovery transitions from restoration through to reconstruction, occur in both built and human assets.

However, this shock is different to our experience in dealing with ‘point shocks’, which might affect a particular place, such as natural disasters like bushfires and floods, or a specific market collapse. The COVID-19 shock is systemic, it is pervasive and overlays our whole societal system.

A shock of this nature and duration brings significant challenges and magnifies those that already exist, but it also provides an opportunity for Tasmanians to take advantage of a different way of life, work and business and to reinvent our state through new and emerging industries.

Responses that combine the efforts of all levels of government, business and the community services industry and which reflect the reality of how our places work; offer the greatest opportunity to transition our local economies to be more resilient and support community livelihoods.

We know that to realise the opportunities in each and every one of us, the Tasmanian community and its associated economy must be thought of as resulting from the combination of connected and interdependent smaller local areas. Local focus will effect positive social and economic change at the regional and state level and provide every Tasmanian with the opportunity to live a good life.

Our people are our greatest asset. And our collective vision is that all Tasmanians have the opportunity to contribute to rebuilding their communities as resilient, healthy, safe and economically vibrant places to live.

As peak organisations, we will support and lead conversations with Tasmanians about their challenges, needs, strengths and solutions for the future. We will continue to advocate for changes that are equitable and sustainable now and for future generations.

We have joined forces and developed a shared statement of intention of engaging Tasmanians in recovery and rebuilding after COVID-19.

With our broad reach, we can assist the State Government and the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council with engagement on the actions we need to take in Tasmania to minimise the intensity and duration of COVID-19 impacts.

We want all Tasmanians to have the same opportunities to rebuild. It is vital that solutions are tailored for diverse communities. This can be achieved when we prioritise resilience and adaptability for individuals, organisations and businesses and when we are inclusive in our conversations, supporting community-led decision-making and place-based solutions.

We know a one size fits all approach will not always work and that in recovery we have to consider the strengths and challenges of local communities and develop solutions that address needs at a local level. When we recognise that good ideas can come from any of us; together we can create opportunities for people from all walks for life to share information and contribute to ideas.

Finally, we know that solutions that are created out of both people’s lived experiences and the best available data are more likely to be successful, so we will share stories and information and we will be transparent and evidence-based in our decision-making.

We ask the State Government and other organisations supporting recovery efforts to also follow these important principles.

Katrena Stephenson is chief executive of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), Adrienne Picone is chief executive of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS) and Michael Bailey is chief executive of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI).