Face to Face in the Viral City
The Centre for Faith and Public Issues ran a webinar towards the end of November 2020 on ‘the viral city’. Keith Hamilton interviewed three leaders in the public domain to ascertain the effects on life within Parramatta CBD and the workplace.
David Borger (Executive Director, Western Sydney Business Chamber) reflected on what it was like for to him to work initially from home, travel into the ‘ghost town’, and how his office had to managed life around 3 lifts. He spoke about the impact of Covid 19 on the demand for office space, public transport and the ‘silver lining’ for secondary CBDs like Parramatta and the ‘corner shop’ / neighbourhoods.
For Melissa Monteiro (CEO Community Migrant Resource Centre) Covid 19 enhanced the quality of family life at home: all of sudden there were shared meals and discussions around the meal table. She was able to speak about how she had “grown” though she noted with sadness that she had not been able to attend her father’s funeral back in India. In terms of work it was a different story. The Resource Centre stayed open: it found that staff needed to work in a mixed mode manner—on site and online. It was noticeable that some folk using their service became “more aggressive” because it was so much more difficult to cope with financial, food and visa issues. The Centre became aware of an upsurge in domestic violence.
Billie Sankovich is the CEO of the Western Sydney Community Forum; her work made a very rapid transition to working online (though the Forum discovered how not everyone has the same digital capacity and connectivity). Not having to travel to work has not improved the work / life balance. There is less time to reflect between meetings; there has not been the same level of shared face to face time with other stuff. The Forum has put into place regular pulse surveys to determine how staff are coping.
Keith also interviewed Paul Moussa who spoke movingly about Meals Plus (Parramatta Mission); Clive Pearson interviewed Suguta Rogoimuri with regards to how the Bula Feeding Ministry in Alpha Park, Blacktown has been operating during this time of restrictions. Paul reflected on how the range of those in tightened circumstances had increased; there were those queueing for assistance at Centrelink who had never needed to avail themselves of this service before: they were in tears—Paul was present with muffins. Now there is no sit-down meal: it is single file, takeaway, masks. Meals Plus is now delivering 30 food packages to homes every week. This had never been done before. Suguta reflected on how now there no opportunity to sit down with people and share their stories; there was no touching; there were no tables set with tapa cloth and the “big bula smiles” were hidden behind masks. She spoke of what it was like for a group of volunteers to be taken by surprise and the need to make quick adjustments to sanitize, mask and take temperatures. Suguta reflected on what had been learnt from this time of Covid 19 and how the Feeding Ministry would be prepared for anything similar in the future.
Keith, Clive and Dean Drayton inserted reflective summaries and facilitated an open discussion time with attending the webinar. Amelia Pereira ably oversaw the digital management.
For a viewing of the webinar, please click the link below :