From the Executive Officer’s Desk: June 2020

Dear Partners,

Rolling into June and towards three months working from home, our health and community sector partners have firmed up their transitioning responses to restrictions, and are looking forward to the recovery phase. I have been keenly interested to capture the significant and innovative changes, hear about what may continue as adopted practice, and what the learnings are in different sectors. Social distancing and home isolation has certainly put the spotlight on the importance of one of our key priority health areas: Social Inclusion. It is timely to be consulting with partners as we test our draft framework for social inclusion, and also for our integrated health promotion partners to be looking at enhancing digital inclusion. In this respect we are delighted to introduce Alex Mills from Link Health and Community’s Opening Doors program, in our new Virtual Coffee With (link)– taking full advantage of our digital capabilities! It’s an uplifting interview, and I suspect will be a transition for future interviews – thank you for leading the way Alex.

With some of our activity postponed, it has also been an excellent opportunity to gather data, develop resources, and support partner’s evaluation of their work. Business as usual continues, including compiling information on our regional portal The Well. The latest resources to support partners on The Well are highlighted in this month’s E-bulletin.

In May I attended a webinar with a number of organisational leaders from the NGO sector, many of whom are feeling very vulnerable, wanting to hear about and share strategies “to get to the other side of Covid19”. It was noted that, amongst the enormous challenges, we are in an environment with increased empathy for the vulnerable, there is higher trust between organisations, and funder’s will be particularly interested in what organisations have done to adjust; and their capacity for effective sustainability. It was agreed the language should be reframed, to ‘funding as an investment’, and that it was a vital time to capitalise on current community attitudes, with advocacy for supporting people – narratives and stories will show the human side of our work, and the organisation as a vehicle to support governments to fix the situation. It was also acknowledged that trying to make decisions now for an unknown future is not easy, and that we should stay true to our Mission, strengthen our systems, continue to build relationships, and support staff to be ready.

The IEPCP also had great pleasure in being invited to participate in the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre’s Cohesion in Crisis research interview, to share our practices and experiences of leading work with partners to pivot existing services and programs in light of the current pandemic. We were pleased the MMIC were inspired by the work being undertaken at the Inner East Primary Care Partnership. We have shared the recent MMIC report: The role of technology to facilitate and support intercultural engagement in our June Ebulletin.

As our bulletin is released I want to acknowledge that we have just come to the end of National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June). These dates mark the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our laws, and the handing down of the High Court judgement recognising Native Title in the 1992 Mabo case. The National theme this year is In this Together, (https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/)and it is a time for all of us in Melbourne’s inner east to reflect on our shared histories and relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and explore how each of us can contribute to achieving meaningful reconciliation. In this regard I’d like to recommend partners have a look at the website Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia ( https://www.gayaadhuwi.org.au/ ) for resources to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities mental health.

The IEPCP recognises World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEEAD) on 15 June. Elder abuse is the worst manifestation of ageism in our community and can be an aspect of family violence. It is unacceptable. Rates of elder abuse are under reported, but the Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates up to 14% of older people in Australia are affected.  Our goal is to raise awareness about ageism, challenge stereotypes of older people, and encourage people to speak up and take action.

National Volunteer Week 2020 has also just past (Monday 18 May – Sunday 24 May 2020), with the theme of Changing Communities. Changing Lives. We would like to acknowledge the continuing commitment and enormous contribution made by our partner organisations, volunteer resource centres, local government and volunteering involving organisations in the eastern region during this time of COVID-19. Research conducted for Volunteering Australia by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods reported a substantial decline in volunteering, with around two thirds of volunteers having stopped volunteering between February and April 2020. However, volunteer resource centres and agencies have responded magnificently to the pandemic by recruiting banks of new volunteers, alongside volunteers who have been able to safely continue contributing their time. International students are among those who are volunteering at this time.

Volunteers have stepped up to provide invaluable support to communities, particularly through outreach to socially isolated and vulnerable people, doing shopping, delivering food and care packages, meals on wheels, and remote IT and telephone suport. Volunteers have provided social connection and support at a time of isolation. Eastern Volunteers, for example, has established a support line for residents in Manningham who need to access services or have questions in this COVID-19 environment, or for social connection and a regular phone call if they are isolated. Volunteers have been recruited from the ranks of qualified Social Workers, GPs and community workers for this service.

Congratulations to all volunteers, and to all our partners for your amazing efforts to support community and staff, and thank you for your willingness to cooperate and continue to partner through this journey together.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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