Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

COVID-19 and Ku-ring-gai Electorate

Volunteers preparing food boxes

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services) (18:55): In a recent conversation, Professor Gordon Parker, AO, who is the founder of the Black Dog Institute, emphasised to me that social harmony results in positive mental health outcomes for individuals within our community. If that is the case, then the people of Ku-ring-gai have certainly been doing their part for social harmony. The Ku-ring-gai community has displayed an outstanding spirit throughout the pandemic, coming together to support one another despite the challenges we have faced. From individuals caring for one another to grassroots and community-led initiatives to playing their part in statewide programs, on every level Ku-ring-gai has stepped up and responded emphatically in the shared fight against COVID-19 and its impacts on all facets of life. The community worked together through that difficult time to bring us the hope for a better future that we now have. They have done so without leaving anyone behind and with care and support for each other, and with a shared sense of belonging and responsibility to each other.

Ku-ring-gai has an abundance of volunteers, each making a difference by giving of their time and expertise. The benefits of those efforts are felt socially and economically. The Centre for Volunteering's inauguralNew South Wales State of Volunteering Report revealed the extensive scale and depth of the value of volunteering in New South Wales. In 2020 more than 4.8 million people volunteered in New South Wales, contributing more than 1.5 billion hours cumulatively. In particular, as the pandemic hit, statistics show that total volunteering hours increased, showing the great community spirit of our volunteers.

As the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, I have been fortunate to remotely attend many award ceremonies around the State, for regional as well as metropolitan areas, run by the Centre for Volunteering, which has celebrated our community volunteers. I was fortunate enough to also attend the ceremony dealing with a volunteers in the Ku-ring-gai local area. On a local level, I thank each and every person from Ku‑ring-gai who has volunteered in all capacities and on all scales. Their work has aided countless people. Volunteers say to me that for every person you help, you gain an enormous amount in return as well as the opportunity to meet great people and form friendships. I am confident that our volunteers have found community service to be personally fulfilling.

I extend my thanks to the volunteering organisations of Ku-ring-gai. They are numerous and it is difficult to mention them all. They cover all areas: aged care, meal delivery services, local sports teams, service clubs, Scouts and Girl Guides, gardening, driving or doing tasks for our seniors. The impressive vaccination rate is a strong demonstration of Ku-ring-gai's community spirit. Almost everybody over the age of 16 years has come forward to be vaccinated in the Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai local government areas, and the 12- to 15-year-olds are now coming forward in large numbers, too. Parts of both those local government areas form the State electorate in Parliament, which I am honoured to serve. Not only does the Ku-ring-gai electorate have one of the highest vaccination rates in the State but it also was one of the first to reach and surpass the 70 and 80 per cent double vaccination targets. It now has some of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Those rates could not have been achieved without the support of our local healthcare workers, whom we acknowledge and are grateful for. Ku‑ring-gai's community-led organisations have undertaken initiatives, projects and services to help vulnerable people and multicultural communities through COVID-19 and its impacts.

Recently, the New South Wales Government recognised two of those local organisations under the Empowering and Supporting Local Communities Grant program whereby they shared over $23,000 in funding. The grant supports and maintains their critical work. The Dae Hahn Culture School in Turramurra has assisted, connected and supported migrant and refugee communities and seniors with vulnerabilities. Its programs include providing COVID-19 information in Korean, boosting social connections in COVID-safe ways and providing training in technology. The initiative boosted social networking, mental wellbeing and understanding of the health advice. The North Shore Sikh Association of Sydney in Turramurra has provided support for emerging communities including migrants, refugees, international students and seniors. The initiatives have encouraged social and emotional supports, assisted with social isolation and provided practical supports in the form of meals and the sourcing of vaccination information and bookings. Such practical care was integral in providing connection and support at a time when it was most needed. The hardship of the pandemic has certainly been met with great support and I am proud of our local organisations who have provided critical services. I am proud of, and grateful to, the people of the Ku‑ring-gai community for their active engagement in many ways throughout the pandemic and in demonstrating the remarkable community spirit we share.