by Julie Macken
Over the last few months we have seen how the NSW state governments response to the Delta variant of Coiv-19 has had the tragic impact of dividing our beautiful city. With nearly 50% of Sydneysiders living in local government areas with high rates of infection, the state responded by calling in the police and the army.
It was a shocking sight for many of us to see the army on the streets of Sydney. But it worse to hear how these communities were being framed as non-compliant and unwilling to do the right thing. This accusation was being made regularly at the 11 am pressers.
What wasn’t being said was that the messaging around vaccinations needed to be in the languages spoken by the community. The messages needed to be consistent and simple. And finally, we all needed to recognise that it is the communities of Western and South West Sydney that do all the heavy lifting in terms of feeding us, moving and storing our shopping – they are the ones that really needed protection from the virus and they weren’t given that.
For all those reasons I wanted to share the opening remarks delivered by Randa Kattan, head of the Arab Council in NSW Parliament last week. She was addressing the Parliamentary Inquiry into the management of Covid-19 in Western Sydney by the state government.
Ms Kattan began.
I welcome the opportunity to bring the voices – the heartache – of the people of Western and South West Sydney into Parliament House today.
The NSW State’s response to Covid in Western Sydney has had the effect of criminalising nearly 50% of our city. That’s what happens when you find yourself flanked by police as you leave the Seven-11. That’s how it feels when you wake to hear choppers hovering overhead. That’s what happens when the State treats an entire community as suspect and non-compliant.
Our crime is twofold. The first is that we are the workers of this city. We are the ones who pack the shelves, drive the trunks, build the houses, care for the kids, clean the hospitals and distribute vital goods. Our second crime is that we really are a community. We still live with our families, our grandparents, our kids, our aunties. We live, work, pray and play in our neighbourhoods and communities.
This criminalisation must stop now.
We appreciate the NSW government has been generous in the amount of funds sent to our community. But, like much of the messaging, it is unclear who can access it and how this is done. That’s why we have kept asking the Premier to include community leaders in this response, before, not after the fact. We know our communities we know how to remove these barriers and get funds where they are so desperately needed.
We need to restore public trust because that is vital for any public health outcome. To do that we want a consistency of policing across the city. What is good enough for Merrylands is good for Mosman. We want clear and consistent messaging for everyone in languages that we all speak
Finally, the scars left – not by the virus but by the government’s response to the virus – will take a long time to heal. That’s why the road out must be a broad highway that can carry all of us, not just the lucky few. To do that we need the leadership of Western Sydney around the table today as plans for recovery are drawn up.
Thank you for your time today.
In the coming months we must work to reunite our communities and stand in solidarity with those who have been blamed and scape-goated for a pandemic that has ravaged their families and communities.