Temporary closure of some Service Centres

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 01/04/2020

A number of Access Canberra Service Centres will close for the rest of this week to support forward planning on future service delivery for community.

Tuggeranong and Gungahlin Service Centres will be closed from 1 April 2020 and will re-open at 9am on 6 April 2020. The Civic Shopfront also remains closed.

The Belconnen and Woden Service Centres remain open at this time.

Access Canberra Executive Branch Manager, Engagement and COVID-19 Response, Emily Springett said the temporary closures this week would alleviate some immediate pressures across Service Centres.

Like the rest of the community, Access Canberra staff are also impacted by the changed arrangements of COVID-19, such as increased caring responsibilities, which means continuity of staffing is a current pressure.

“The closure will also enable us as an agency to finalise some forward planning arrangements so we can continue to provide continuity in our service delivery, while supporting the health and safety of our teams and our community,” she said.

“We would like to remind our community that they can continue to do more than 450 services and transactions online with Access Canberra at www.act.gov.au/accessCBR from the comfort of their homes. There are only a small number of services that we undertake in which our community need to come to a Service Centre and we are also looking at those to see how we can reduce it further.”

Ms Springett said that if the community was unsure how they could do a transaction digitally, or if they needed to attend a Service Centre, they could call 13 22 81 for support – before they went to a Service Centre.

“It’s important that our community reduces their time outside their home unless it is essential and the majority of Access Canberra services and transactions can be completed online or by phone, which prevents the need for our community to transact face-to-face,” she said.

“For those members of our community still choosing to attend a Service Centre, we have implemented a range of measures to support their health and safety of our team members.

“This includes putting physical distancing arrangements in place, reducing the number of people queuing inside Centres, having hand sanitizer available and undertaking regular cleaning throughout the day.

“Our clear message to the community is there is no better time to do it online with Access Canberra.”

All Service Centres – Woden, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin – are expected to be open from 9am on Monday 6 April 2020.

– Statement ends –

Section: Access Canberra | Media Releases

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Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve closed in response to COVID-19

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 01/04/2020

The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve has been closed following a weekend of increased visitor numbers and their failure to comply with social distancing requirements.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage Mick Gentleman said it was disappointing to close Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in response to people ignoring social distancing rules.

“This weekend over 500 people visited the Reserve and were confined to a reduced area as a result of January’s bushfires. We have now closed the park for the safety of the community as well as our Parks and Conservation personnel,” Minister Gentleman said.

“Following the social distancing requirements agreed by National Cabinet is vital to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the ACT.

“Other ACT Parks and Conservation Service facilities including Tidbinbilla Visitor Information Centre, Namadgi Visitor Information Centre, campgrounds, playgrounds and cottages were also recently closed as part of our response to the current public health emergency.

“All public campsites are now closed, including Cotter Campground, Blue Range Campground, Northern Boarder Campground, Kowen Campground and all campsites in Namadgi National Park. All current bookings will be refunded.

“Playgrounds within the Parks and Conservation areas are also closed, including those at Tidbinbilla, Cotter Avenue, Casuarina Sands and Pine Island. These closures are consistent with approaches undertaken by all other jurisdictions across the country to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I encourage everyone to respect the closures, think of others and maintain social distancing while using outdoor spaces. This means not congregating in groups larger than two, keeping 1.5 metres from others, avoiding peak usage periods and practicing good hand hygiene.

“Other parks and reserves across the ACT will remain open aside from Namadgi National Park, which remains closed for safety reasons following the Orroral Valley bushfire.

“Rangers will be monitoring to ensure people are using the spaces that remain open in accordance with government directions. If Canberrans continue to ignore the rules, we may need to close more parks and reserves.”

For more information on these closures or to find a park or reserve near you, visit: www.environment.act.gov.au

– Statement ends –

Section: Mick Gentleman, MLA | Media Releases

«ACT Government Media Releases | «Minister Media Releases

Jump online with ACT Libraries

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 01/04/2020

Canberrans are encouraged to take advantage of the various online resources and services provided by Libraries ACT while physical distancing measures are in place as a result of COVID-19.

Minister for City Services Chris Steel said that using the vast amount of online library resources was a great way for Canberrans to entertain themselves and their families during the period in which the community remains housebound.

“With all of us needing to remain at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage the community to log onto the Libraries ACT website and discover what is available for all ages,” Minister for City Services, Chris Steel said.

Libraries ACT has curated ‘At Home Brain and Boredom Busters’ section on their website to keep Canberrans reading and learning while ACT Libraries are physically closed.

“Now is a great time to discover ACT Libraries eResources including eBooks, eAudio, digital magazines, streaming movies and documentaries, downloadable and streaming music, literacy games and language learning.

“Story times presented by fantastic Libraries ACT team members have also moved online for children and families to enjoy.”

Libraries ACT is working on how to deliver other programs online which will be added to the website as they becomes available.

“Given the difficult decision we made last week closing all ACT Libraries, it is important to keep library services accessible to the community for recreation and learning at home,” Minister Steel said.

“Libraries ACT has also developed a new temporary measure allowing anyone in the Canberra community who is not already a library member to fast track their membership in joining Libraries ACT”.

To become a member, visit the register page of the Libraries ACT website and complete the membership form.

Members who have not visited a library branch for some time are also being reminded to ensure they visit the Libraries ACT website to update their details to use the library from home.

Members can update details online by using their membership number and password/PIN, or membership number and registered email.

– Statement ends –

Section: Chris Steel, MLA | Media Releases

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2019-20 Bushfire Season officially ends

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 31/03/2020

The ACT’s toughest bushfire season since 2003 ends today.

Minister Gentlman said the 2019/20 bushfire season had officially been declared over by the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA).

“I thank Commissioner Whelan and all the staff across the ACT involved in keeping Canberra safe during bushfire, smoke haze, hailstorms and heat waves, culminating in the devastating Orroral Valley fire,” Minister Gentleman said.

“Frontline firefighting efforts protected Canberra homes along with a number of cultural and heritage assets assisted by aerial support including the ACT’s Specialist Intelligence Gathering (SIG) Helicopter and Very Large Air Tanker.”

“The ACT was faced with the driest conditions on record that saw strong winds, thick dust and smoke, hazardous air quality and the hottest day on record reaching 44 degrees – conditions proved volatile and challenging for firefighters.”

“The commitment of our emergency services personnel and volunteers in ensuring the safety of the Canberra community won’t be forgotten. Thank you for your selflessness and dedication.”

“We also saw the Canberra community come together to support their neighbours and colleagues during a very challenging time.”

During this time there were several notable achievements, including:

  • Quickly responding to and extinguishing the first significant bush and grass fire of the season, the Beard Fire that was declared out 30 January 2020.
  • Containing and extinguishing the Orroral Valley Fire, ensuring no lives or properties were lost. After 40 days of continuous firefighting The Orroral Valley fire was declared out 27 February 2020.
  • Deployment of over 2,160 ACT personnel who supported our colleagues and communities in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
  • Monitoring 24 Total Fire Ban days. Traditionally the ACT has six Total Fire Ban days throughout a bushfire season.
  • Simultaneously managing bushfire and hail damage responses following Canberra’s worst ever hailstorm on 20 January.
  • Issuing more than 350 warnings and public information updates to keep Canberrans informed via emergency alerts and warnings, information updates and community meetings.

ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan credits preparedness as the key to keeping Canberrans safe.

“Together, our team of teams, from ACT Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire & Rescue, ACT Ambulance Service and ACT State Emergency Service, supported by ESA emergency management, ACT Parks & Conservation Service, ACT Policing and the Australian Defence Force ensured the safety of the Canberra community remained a priority.”

“ESA works all year round to prepare our staff, volunteers and the community for the bushfire season.”

“Canberrans can remain assured that all ESA personnel and volunteers are continuing to work together the further strengthen and adapt to learnings from the season,” Commissioner Whelan concluded.

ESA are undertaking an after-action review to consider what improvements can be made to bushfire preparedness and responses in preparation for the 2020-21 bushfire season.

From today, fire permits will no longer be required for rural land holders wishing to conduct burns. Land holders are still asked to notify authorities if they plan to conduct burns. Penalties apply if fires are left unattended or escape containment.

The official 2019-20 bushfire season for the ACT began 1 October 2019 and concludes today, 31 March 2020.

– Statement ends –

Section: Mick Gentleman, MLA | Media Releases

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ACT Government public space closures

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 30/03/2020

For community safety, in response to COVID-19, the ACT Government is closing a number of public spaces from midday today, Monday 30 March 2020, until further notice. The closures are in line with the direction issued following yesterday’s National Cabinet meeting.

Temporary closures apply to:

  • playgrounds
  • outdoor fitness stations
  • skate parks
  • dog parks
  • BBQs
  • the Tidbinbilla Visitor Information Centre
  • the Namadgi Visitor Information Centre
  • all campgrounds including Cotter Campground, Blue Range Campground, Northern Border Campground, Kowen Campground and all campsites in Namadgi National Park, with all current bookings to be refunded
  • cottages within ACT parks and reserves.

While these spaces may not be fenced off or gated, please do not use them. Signage will be erected in coming days.

Despite the closure of the Visitor Information Centre, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve will remain open to the public but visitors will need to adhere to the new public gathering rules of no more than two people.

All other parks and reserves across the ACT will remain open with the new public gathering rules in place. Namadgi National Park remains closed due to safety reasons following the Orroral Valley bushfire.

– Statement ends –

Section: ACT Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate | Media Releases

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ACT Youth Week postponed

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 29/03/2020

Youth Week events have been postponed due to requirements to reduce non-essential gatherings.

ACT Youth Week is an important annual opportunity to recognise the contributions of young people in our community. It is an opportunity for us to celebrate our young citizens, and for them to collaborate and connect, and to share their ideas on important issues with the ACT Government.

This year’s ACT Youth Week was due to run from Friday 27 March to Sunday 5 April 2020.

In consultation with the ACT Youth Advisory Council, events associated with Youth Week have been cancelled or postponed due to the need for physical distancing measures and restrictions on non-essential gatherings.

A key Youth Week event is the presentation of the Young Canberra Citizen of the Year Awards, which celebrate the contribution of Canberrans aged 12-25 years in a range of areas.

Nominees, nominators and sponsors have been advised that the Young Citizen of the Year Awards ceremony has been postponed until further notice. An award ceremony will be held when it is possible for us to gather again to celebrate the achievements of our young people.

The 2020 ACT Youth Assembly was also due to take place this week, on Friday 3 April. This is an important forum for young people to work together in a deliberative way to provide advice and recommendations to the ACT Government on issues that are important to them.

Given its significance in providing a voice for young people directly to Ministers and Members of the Legislative Assembly, the Youth Assembly has been postponed rather than cancelled at this stage. I want to thank the Youth Advisory Council for its careful consideration of whether to proceed with this forum through virtual means or to postpone.

A range of community events were also due to take place this week, supported by Youth Week Grants. The grant recipients have been informed that their events are unable to proceed as planned. However, the Youth InterACT team will work with grant recipients to vary their events to allow them to be held in a different format, or later in the year.

This is a difficult time for everyone, including for many young people. I look forward to continuing to work with the Youth Advisory Council and our young citizens as we seek new ways to boost our resilience as a city through this emergency and, in due course, start our recovery processes.

– Statement ends –

Section: Rachel Stephen-Smith, MLA | Media Releases

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ACT Chief Minister Statement: Canberrans must stay at home unless essential

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 29/03/2020

Following decisions made at National Cabinet this evening, the ACT will implement tougher restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Territory.

These stronger measures have been agreed upon by National Cabinet because if we don’t act now to further flatten the curve, the advice we have is that our healthcare system will be overwhelmed.

Critical work to increase capacity in the ACT’s hospitals is continuing, but there will not be enough doctors, nurses, or medical equipment to help everyone if the spread of the virus increases exponentially.

To help slow the spread, we are requiring Canberrans to only leave their homes for the following reasons:

  • shopping for what you need – food and necessary supplies
  • medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely

The further limits on public gatherings to just two people will be difficult, but have been introduced to limit the spread of the virus. ACT Authorities will be making people aware of the new requirements and issuing warnings in the first instance. The ACT, along with the other States and Territories, will be moving to implement stronger enforcement measures in the near future (such as fines) to ensure consistency across jurisdictions.

For Canberrans aged 70 and over, staying at home, as much as possible, is the best way to reduce infection risk. It is the best advice we can provide to avoid the more serious consequences from the virus. However, this does not mean that over 70s cannot leave their homes. They should exercise caution though, and avoid crowds, and maintain physical distancing wherever possible.

Over time, we understand that this will require a greater coordination of community support networks. The ACT Government, and our community sector partners, will be developing additional ways that we can support elderly Canberrans.

Playgrounds, skateparks, outdoor fitness stations and outdoor BBQs across the Territory will be closed in the coming days as a result of decisions made at the National Cabinet.

The ACT will also be joining other state and territory governments to implement a short term, temporary moratorium on eviction for the non-payment of rent due to COVID-19. This measure will ensure that Canberrans who are renting (residential or commercial) and can’t pay their rent because of COVID-19, will not be evicted for six months.

Landlords are asked to work with any affected tenants to provide rent relief through temporary amendments to leases. The financial cost of these temporary measures will be shared between governments, banks, landlords and tenants.

The ACT and Commonwealth Governments will be forgoing significant tax revenue to make this temporary arrangement work.

However, landlords who receive Federal and Territory Government tax relief will be expected to pass this through to tenants suffering financial stress. The tax reductions will only be available for those who participate.

Further discussions will continue with the property sector on further mechanisms the ACT and Federal Governments can provide to assist this process.

The Federal Government is expected to announce further stimulus measures early this week. The ACT Government will finalise our second package of economic survival measures following the Commonwealth’s announcement to ensure complementary support is provided to those that need it.

– Statement ends –

Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases

«ACT Government Media Releases | «Minister Media Releases

Chromebooks rolled out to years 4, 5 and 6

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 28/03/2020

The ACT Government’s nation-leading investment in digital education has expanded to provide Chromebooks to public school students in years 4, 5 and 6 to ensure families have what they need to continue learning at home.

ACT public schools are well placed to ensure education can continue as the community steps up to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This week additional Chromebooks are being provided to students by their public primary schools to ensure equitable access to online and home-based learning.

The ACT Government already provides a pool of Chromebooks to public primary schools and this additional investment will ensure each individual student has what they need to continue their education from home. Schools will work with families to arrange distribution.

Digital tools are utilised daily within public schools, including Google Classrooms, allowing for a smoother transition to alternative methods of leaning for students as a natural extension.

Students will be able to access the new Learning Resource Library, launched by the government on Monday, to support home learning. The Learning Resource Library has already seen 40,000 hits, including across the country and the globe.

In 2016 the ACT Government announced an election commitment to increase access to technology to all ACT Government secondary school students by providing them with a computer. The government began delivery of this commitment with a 2018 budget allocation of $17 million to fund the rollout.

As a result ACT public high school and college students are already well-placed to continue learning from home using the Chromebooks they receive from year 7.

– Statement ends –

Section: Yvette Berry, MLA | Media Releases

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Further health service changes in response to COVID-19

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 27/03/2020

The ACT Government is implementing further changes to our health services to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Canberra Health Services is implementing a number of changes to maternity, paediatric and community-based services.

These changes are in addition to the reduction in non-urgent and non-essential outpatient and community activity, and the suspension of all elective surgery other than category 1 and urgent category 2, announced earlier this week.

These changes will help to contain the spread of COVID-19 and decrease demand on our health system, ensuring our services are well resourced and staffed to respond to the pandemic.

Patients will be contacted directly if changes affect their upcoming appointment or treatments.

These are very difficult decisions to make and we know there are many Canberrans who will be impacted.

This is an overwhelming time for people, particularly those with health concerns. We thank the community for their understanding and patience during this challenging period.

Women, Youth and Children

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, one person will be allowed to be the support person in labour. This person will remain the designated visitor for the duration of the woman’s stay in hospital, in line with previously announced visitor restrictions.

Routine antenatal appointments will continue, but as the situation is evolving this may need to change and any impacted patients will be contacted. Antenatal classes and other group sessions will be provided in an online format.

An early pregnancy and parenting phone line is being established to support with early pregnancy, maternal and child health, breastfeeding and emotional wellbeing concerns.

Visitor access

Visitor access to all Canberra Health Services sites, including Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, has been limited to one visitor per patient allowed on site per day. We’re also discouraging families from bringing children on site, if possible.

For more information on service changes please visit www.health.act.gov.au.

– Statement ends –

Section: Rachel Stephen-Smith, MLA | Media Releases

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Changes to ACT legal support services due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Source: Australian Capital Territory – State Government

Released 27/03/2020

Legal support services in the ACT have moved to audio-visual communications in response COVID 19.

These measures will allow organisations to provide legal advice whilst ensuring the safety of the community and their staff.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said that the safe provision of adequate legal advice was a priority for the Government at this time.

“As we manage this unprecedented event, the ACT Government is working with ACT’s legal support services to ensure we are still able to provide services while also minimising the health risk to all Canberrans,” Mr Ramsay said.

“Anyone required to self-isolate or who is feeling unwell should not attend any of the ACT legal support services. This includes those on bail or subject to summonses, subpoenas or other compulsory processes. Individuals in these circumstances must contact the applicable service in advance. They will then receive advice about how their matters will proceed.”

A summary of legal services is available below:

Legal Aid ACT helps people in the ACT with their legal problems, especially people who are socially or economically disadvantaged. Specifically, Legal Aid ACT has a helpline for general legal information and advice that is open to all members of the community, runs the Tenancy Advice Service and the Older Persons ACT Legal Service in the ACT and family violence matters, as well as many other services.

The ACT Human Rights Commission promotes the human rights and welfare of all Canberrans. It handles a range of complaints about health services; complaints about discrimination, children’s services, services for older people and disability services. As part of the Commission, Victim Support ACT provides free counselling, case coordination and financial assistance to victims. Additionally, the Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner advocates for people at risk of abuse and exploitation, and ensures that systems are upholding peoples’ rights and interests.

The Public Trustee and Guardian provides permanent and secure Trustee, Guardianship, Financial Management, and Will and Enduring Powers of Attorney making services to the ACT community.

The Restorative Justice Unit facilitates restorative justice processes for people impacted by offences including those who are harmed, those responsible for causing harm as well as their respective communities of care.

Canberra Community Law provides legal services to people on low incomes in the areas of housing, Centrelink, disability and discrimination law as well as a specialist service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) is a specialist domestic and family violence service that seeks to reduce violence and abuse in relationships. DVCS provides crisis and long-term support services to help break the domestic and family violence cycle.

The Women’s Legal Centre provides specialist advice in relation to family law, care and protection, employment and discrimination issues. The Centre’s Aboriginal Women’s Program provides culturally safe support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Care Inc and the Consumer Law Centre provide support and advice to people in financial stress. They are continuing to provide financial counselling, legal advice and no interest loan services.

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT undertakes legal work in criminal law, children’s care and protection law and family law.

Environmental Defenders Office ACT provides free initial legal advice on planning and environmental law matters.

– Statement ends –

Section: Gordon Ramsay, MLA | Media Releases

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