As we begin to emerge slowly from what was a challenging – and unprecedented – start to the year, I have reflected, like many others, on what life will be like post-COVID. I have, more than anything, thought on the changes we needed to make as an organisation to continue to support the communities we work for, and what this will look like when we return “back to work”.  

Many of these changes involved quickly and efficiently adapting our services to an online space. This was a necessity, and it has served us well during this time.

While many welcome the adaption to all things digital – and the value of maintaining aspects of this new way to work and offer services - what I have found, is at the heart of our services, nothing compares to how much value placed-based organisations like ours have on the lives of vulnerable people. Access is here to support some of the most vulnerable people in our local communities. From culturally and linguistically diverse people and new arrivals, to those experiencing incredibly hard times – unemployment, disability, domestic violence - we are there.

COVID shook the foundations of that support. Our community centres, offices, and face-to-face services in many areas of the organisation were all halted. Our teams, I can proudly say, stood up to the challenge.

We ran our community engagement and education workshops online. We created a WhatsApp Group for our community leaders to offer a streamlined channel of accurate information. Our Case Workers offered their support through work based personal social media channels, because we knew we had to be there for our clients. Our employment and education teams continued to support their clients online, and our social enterprises adapted quickly. Nothing had to shut down completely, and in fact, many of our digital alternatives flourished under the leaderships of our teams.

But in an ideal future, ours is about the support we offer on the ground, and we are eager, along with our partners, to return to our core business. The desire to see our Multicultural Sports Club welcome their teams back to the field; the anticipation of opening the doors of the Gateway and turning the lights of the Queensland Multicultural Centre stage back on – this is what we work for.

The importance of arts and culture, of sports and recreation, of independence and employment, and how we motivate and inspire our communities to be involved in the world around them are opportunities that every human being deserves. This is everything we work for.

We can expect challenges in life after COVID. We will undoubtedly see in some of our most vulnerable communities, an increase in crime, unemployment, violence, and a fractured social fabric. More than ever, we will be called on as a community organisation to do what we can to mend this social fabric back together.

Never before has the value of place-based organisations been so crucial. Through the good work of not just our teams, but fellow organisations like Lendlease, Brisbane Catholic Education, and the NDIS. We can be there once again to support our diverse communities, face-to-face and offer those opportunities.

So after much reflection, I have found I have come back to what I always knew – an organisation like ours must be on the ground. The truth is, we have missed the faces of our communities, and I dare say, our communities have missed us.

Gail Ker
Access Community Services