CHAMPION COLUMN | Councils keeping communities connected

Councils keeping communities connected

Changes in day-to-day life that have resulted from the COVID-19 emergency have affected us all. As recovery begins, Western Sydney councils continue to show resilience and innovation, in finding new and safe ways to provide key community services that keep people connected.

Re-imagined libraries, extended opening hours for parks, family fun that incorporates social distancing are some of the ways in which councils are ensuring more people can return to the activities that shape their everyday routines, and that vulnerable community members are not forgotten.

WSROC president Councillor Barry Calvert

WSROC president Councillor Barry Calvert

From the overwhelming, positive community response, we know that these services are making all the difference. Staying connected and providing opportunities for safe leisure time and physical activities is helping people to get through the crisis and recovery. While business and social activities are beginning to cautiously resume, we still don't know what the longer-term picture will look like.

Liverpool City's Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre's impressive digital program and kids' art content were both nominated for a Time Out Sydney Time In Award, amongst the best to emerge from the coronavirus emergency. Council's support for local artists and businesses continues, with #LoveLivo Live online music event and business directory with up-to-date local trading information.

In Fairfield City, the Home Library Service was expanded to be safe, contactless and accessible for all residents, while prioritising people who are less mobile or who have limited access to online resources. Fairfield City has also extended hours of lighting in sport fields, to allow longer access, while Council's leisure centres are offering socially-distanced personal training and bootcamps.

Even a family night out at the movies will soon be possible again, with a drive-in cinema at Fairfield Showground.

Other Western Sydney councils' adapted and online programs to keep communities connected include: Blacktown City's famous Beats'n'Bites music program, Blue Mountains City's Love Local Live Arts campaign and business recovery support, Cumberland City's expanding suite of online resources for kids, youth and businesses, Hawkesbury City's high-impact visitor's guide campaign, Lithgow City's Library program and Youth Festival and Parramatta City's extensive Warami Festival program.

Councils are under increasing pressure, as they remain currently ineligible for NSW government and federal government stimulus packages that support delivery of these key services. Our goal is to ensure that each community member is able to access essential services throughout the recovery process, as our new sense of normality continues to take shape.