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In February this year I was absolutely delighted to take on the role of CEO of QCOSS. Mark Henley provided QCOSS and the community sector with strong leadership for almost nine years. Mark, the QCOSS Board, and the team have put significant resources and efforts into engaging with local communities all around Queensland as well as making sure QCOSS’ advice is respected and sought after when policy is being developed.
It was due to this strong positioning that QCOSS was able to respond so quickly and effectively to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
The economic and health crisis caused by the pandemic has reinforced the importance and role of QCOSS – as a channel for information dissemination and exchange, to hear and respond to the needs of our essential community services sector, to facilitate collaboration, and as an advocate for the needs of our sector and service users.
QCOSS acted quickly when the pandemic began to impact our communities in Queensland. We rapidly developed and provided essential information. In the words of one of our members:
Chief Executive Officer
“I just wanted to say that (at) a time when we have both too much information and not enough, that your updates have been particularly helpful.”
The COVID-19 related pages of our Community Door website were accessed by more than 30,000 people. We published guidelines and templates and provided regular updates as health directives, advice and guidelines changed. We dealt with around 1,400 calls from our sector and we undertook more than 100 outbound calls to members to check how they were coping.
We have shared the experiences of the community services sector and service users during the crisis including through the Human and Social Recovery Committee, the COVID-19 Seniors Taskforce, the Housing Security Subcommittee, and the Queensland Industry Recovery Alliance.
During the crisis we saw extraordinary measures adopted by federal and state governments to keep people out of poverty, safe, and well. Overnight we witnessed an almost doubling of income support, homeless people housed in hotels, and our communities come together with more than 28,000 people volunteering for the Queensland Government’s Care Army.
QCOSS is committed to ensuring the goodwill resulting from this crisis is harnessed and that recovery efforts benefit all Queenslanders. We have advocated for recovery measures that will support the financial wellbeing of Queenslanders, create jobs, and ensure the community services sector can provide support to those who need it.
One measure we pushed early was investment in building more social and affordable housing. On 16 June the Premier announced a $100 million investment in building more social housing, and while doing so, acknowledged and thanked QCOSS for our long-term advocacy in the space. It was welcome news, but with more than 25,000 households on Queensland’s social housing waiting list, we know this is just a single step in the right direction.
After 60 years, QCOSS remains optimistic. During this time of crisis, we hold firm to our vision and are committed to working with the community sector and government towards equality, opportunity and wellbeing for all Queenslanders.