The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone in our community, including us. It affected every part of our work in the final months of 2019-20.
Some of our services – like leisure centres – had to close. Others – like our libraries – had to find new ways to deliver their services.
Most of our core services continued. We kept collecting waste and recycling and continued maintaining our roads and parks.
- We made extra checks on our older or vulnerable residents. We fast-tracked new clients. We increased our services such as providing meals and food relief.
- We allowed ratepayers to enter a payment arrangement or defer their rates until 30 June 2021 without any interest charged.
- We waived food registration renewal fees for hospitality businesses. We refunded fees for cancelled events.
- We turned off parking meters.
- We paid artists and contractors affected by the cancellation of the Brunswick Music Festival.
- We waived fees for sporting clubs.
- We put extra hygiene measures in place to protect staff and customers.
- We started running virtual council meetings over our live-streaming platform.
Young people, older people and families
We modified our Maternal and Child Health service. And our immunisation services continued, with extra hygiene measures in place.
Our Oxygen Youth Space had to close. We provided direct support to Merri-bek’s young people in different ways. We used text messages and phone and video calls. We moved programs online and developed new ways to support young people.
We worked to tackle social isolation among our older residents. We began:
- linking people via voice and video chat
- increased meal deliveries
- increased shopping support
- loaning iPads
- community art projects.
After our libraries closed, we stopped late fees and introduced a new service – Books to Your Door – in May. We also expanded our Home Library Service.
We continued author talks and storytime online via Facebook and YouTube. Our social groups continued using Microsoft Teams.
We promoted e-resources and provided help with technology over the phone. We also introduced an iPad lending scheme.
Leisure and aquatic centres
All our leisure and aquatic centres closed, and memberships were suspended. We provided online workouts for members and the community.
We hosted conversations online through our Conversations Merri-bek website and ran postal surveys. We also organised phone-ins for the community to talk to us about a project.
In May we launched an online portal to help our community to connect with us. The portal is called Short Tales: Our Merri-bek Stories. You can share your experiences of the pandemic and feel inspired about a positive future.
When the pandemic began, we started a campaign to support community morale. We wanted to help people who were feeling alone or isolated. This was our Be Kind campaign.
We identified the needs of our more vulnerable community members. From May, we increased our communications to them. We promoted health information, as well as information about relief and support services.
We also provided updates to local service providers and community organisations.
Support for businesses
We designed our Boost for Business programs and activities to help Merri-bek businesses.
Our free online workshops and courses covered a wide range of themes. These included wellbeing, resilience, digital solutions, marketing and more. We also set up a dedicated hotline to help businesses.
Our Love Merri-bek Buy Local campaign encouraged the community to shop locally.
Support for the arts
Our support for local artists grew as the pandemic unfolded. We provided over 70 artists and arts organisations with support. This included help with grant applications. We also linked artists and arts organisations to emergency service providers.
We worked hard to prevent disruptions to our services. We redeployed staff from services that were unable to function as usual.
Due to good planning, we were able to mobilise hundreds of staff to work from home within a few days.
There were many financial impacts on the organisation. You can read more about this in our financial overview.