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Community Update – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Response – August 2020

Community Newsletter 2

Read an update on Council's response to COVID-19 including a message from our Mayor, support and relief measures, how to support local business at this time and where to find help if you need it.

Message from our Mayor

It’s been a rollercoaster ride over the past few months as we’ve moved to Stage 3 restrictions, then out, then back again to Stage 3 in regional Victoria. Many people are struggling in different ways. Once again we’re separated from loved ones, social networks and in some cases the workplace, as some businesses are forced to close and students move to home learning again.

Council staff continue to deliver essential services like meals on wheels, bin collections, immunisations and more. In June, we opened our customer service and visitor information centres while trying to balance the needs of our local economy and stay COVID-free. We worked closely with community groups and sports clubs to re-open some facilities and get young people back on the field or court. Sadly we’ve had to close the doors again temporarily. We may not be operating business as usual but rest assured we are still delivering on our commitments.

We’ve completed new roads and footpaths, weed removal and levee designs, and seen an increase in planning applications with some help from economic stimulus packages.

Staff have been flat out in helping local businesses meet public health requirements and adapt to new ways of doing things. We’ve launched an online platform to support local creatives, continued our community grants program and moved programs including small business workshops, new parents groups and Mondo Lounge online.

Councillors have returned to online briefings, committee meetings and Council meetings, having enjoyed a return to meeting face-to-face during June and July.

Council has allocated funding for relief measures and works in the 2020/2021 Budget. There’s investment in tourism marketing, mental health training for the community, the waiver of registrations and permits for some businesses, and an online platform for the creative industries. We’ve adopted a COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy to guide financial relief for those who need it, following initial relief measures announced in March.

We’ve also secured grants from the state and federal governments to help us deliver on projects and services for the community, including a $4.5 million grant from the Victorian Government to rejuvenate the historic Maldon streetscape, and $500,000 over two years to deliver small town streetscape projects. These projects will help improve our towns, stimulate jobs and grow the local economy.

I would like to thank everyone for staying apart and sticking to the rules. Please continue to be kind and care for each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it and get tested if you show any symptoms of coronavirus. We can get through this together, help save lives and quell the pandemic.

Cr Christine Henderson
Mayor, Mount Alexander Shire Council

Pandemic response update

We are continuing to implement our business continuity and regional pandemic plans which provide a framework for how we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dedicated staff from across the organisation are supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the lead agency responsible for coordinating the state-wide response to the pandemic, and are leading local relief and recovery initiatives to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 in our community. We operate a virtual operations centre to coordinate this effort and a virtual emergency relief centre to provide round the clock support to our community.

Our emergency management processes were applied during a small COVID-19 outbreak at the DON KR production facility in Castlemaine. DON KR took immediate steps to implement their response plan and work with DHHS, and council officers, to protect their workforce and reduce the potential spread, which saw around 1,300 staff tested as a precaution. An Incident Control Centre was established in Castlemaine to help manage the situation, providing a local base for council officers, government agencies, health services and emergency services personnel to work together to support the health and safety of staff and the community.

Care and collaboration

We continue to draw on our partnerships as we coordinate our local pandemic and business working groups to bring together community and health organisations, business networks, community members and emergency services to assess the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. We also undertook a business survey to focus on ways to support local businesses and industry, including tourism and the arts.

We have also worked as part of a health and wellbeing working group facilitated by the Central Victorian Primary Care Partnership (CVPCP) to deliver support to vulnerable members of our community through projects like the Mount Alexander Food Pantry, which delivered more than 3,000 meals, and information packs outlining support services for people without access to the internet.

Business support

We are working closely with local food providers, supermarkets, hardware stores, markets, accommodation providers, restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops and personal services to meet public health requirements, and have distributed touch-less thermometers, provided by the Victorian Government, to accommodation providers and caravan parks with shared facilities. We’re encouraging the community to play their part by promoting public health messages and have footpath decals available for local businesses to help with physical distancing based on feedback we received during our visits.

We understand it is difficult for any business right now. Council officers are in conversations with local businesses to see what support and advice they need in response to the issues they are facing in this rapidly changing environment, while working on longer-term strategies to help our local economy bounce back. Contact our team if you need advice.

For information on local business support visit www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/COVID19BusinessSupport.
For the latest information on restrictions visit www.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.

Say hello to CASI

We are implementing the Victorian Government’s Community Activation and Social Isolation (CASI) initiative to support people who feel lonely or socially disconnected during the pandemic. The program supports the state-wide coronavirus hotline and, in partnership with the Australian Red Cross, refers people who are in need of practical, emotional or social support to a local community connector. The community connector can link them to the support they need, as well as practical supports and social activities such as video chats, online book clubs or fitness groups.

As part of the initiative, we have established a Mount Alexander Local Support Network of organisations and volunteers to help us provide this support, assess community needs and monitor progress. We are also working with members of the network, alongside local GPs and pharmacies, to distribute reusable face masks, provided by the Victorian Government, to vulnerable members of our community.

Get lost in creativity

Creatives can sign up to our new online platform for makers and creators to collaborate, promote, and share ideas and projects. Get Lost was developed in partnership with the local creative workforce to showcase the creative talent in our shire, and was accelerated to help support artists, musicians, story-tellers and the creative industry at this time.

We have awarded ten $1,000 grants to kick start content, and started a philanthropic fund to establish the funds needed to support our creatives into the future. We look forward to sharing these exciting projects on the platform at they emerge.

Find out more at www.getlost.org.au.

We are here to help

To help and connect our community at this time we have created a dedicated COVID-19 support number, email and virtual emergency relief centre. For assistance, information or a referral to a local community organisation or service call us on 1800 512 446 between 8.30am and 5.00pm, email us at covid19@mountalexander.vic.gov.au or visit www.connectmountalexander.com.au.

If you are finding the current situation difficult and want to talk to a counsellor, call the friendly staff at CHIRP Community Health on (03) 5479 1000 between 9am to 5pm (Mon – Thurs) and 9am - 4.30pm (Fri).

The COVID Connect service run by the Australian Red Cross has volunteers that are happy to call you for a friendly chat to help keep you connected. To register for a call, ring 1800 733 276 or visit www.redcross.org.au/get-help/ community-services/covid-connect.

If you or someone you know, is feeling anxious or stressed, support is available:
Beyond Blue 1800 512 348 beyondblue.org.au
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 www.kidshelpline.com.au
Switchboard Victoria 1800 184 527 www.qlife.org.au

Parents and carers trying to manage the impacts on their family can access support from the Raising Children Network. For information on COVID-19, protective hygiene and tips to help you and your family cope visit www.raisingchildren.net.au.

Council enquiries

Contact our Customer Service Team on 5471 1700 between 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, email info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au or lodge a service request via our website.

Customers can make payments online, by phone, or via BPAY at www.bpay.com.au. Please get in touch if you are unable to make a payment or are experiencing financial hardship. Stay up-to-date on changes to services at www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.

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