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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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

«ACT Government Media Releases | «Minister Media Releases

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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Urgent food relief for vulnerable Canberrans

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 26/03/2020

Vulnerable Canberrans will have access to food relief as a result of the ACT Government’s food pantry initiative.

Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Suzanne Orr, has today announced that the ACT Government will work together with community partners, including Uniting Care Kippax, Oz Harvest and The Foodbank to provide urgent food and essential items through a food pantry.

The ACT Government will provide $1.5 million over the next six months to ensure vulnerable people get the food and items they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stage 1 will initially involve supporting the existing crisis and relief centres throughout our community. The Canberra Relief Network will be a central point for procurement and distribution of goods to organisations.  This is to enable and empower the organisations to continue meeting the increasing demands of the community during these unprecedented times.

Once the centralised model is established, the CRN will move to Stage 2 – providing direct support to individuals and families who are unable to access existing services. The food pantry will be delivered from a central coordination point supporting vulnerable Canberrans, including people living with disability. Existing foodbank provisions will remain in place until Stage 2 is up and running early next week.

A call centre is also being set up to assist people in isolation or quarantine. People will be able to register through the call centre for access to the food pantry. Once established, the number will be published on https://kippax.org.au/.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Suzanne Orr:

“This new food pantry will ensure vulnerable people in our community can access supplies they need for themselves and their families during this challenging time. The message is simple: If you are in isolation, if you are elderly, if you have a disability, if you have lost your job or you’re not sure how you will put food on the table, please get in touch.

“The ACT Government would like to thank Uniting Care Kippax, Oz Harvest and The Foodbank for partnering with us to support Canberrans who are in need of urgent relief.

“As a Government, we are doing what we can to ensure no one is alone or without support during these unprecedented times, which is why we are delivering this food pantry as part of our overall economic survival package.”

Quotes attributable to Mr Steve Coster, Chief Executive Officer, Uniting Care Kippax:

“This is a time when all of our community needs to come together – for a start, let’s stop panic buying. I know this is a community that cares about each other and we see that every day in Uniting Care at Kippax. Let’s think about others and support each other at this difficult time.

In the coming weeks we will be coming out to the community and asking them for food donations, and we will need volunteers. I know Canberrans will rise to the occasion.”

Uniting Care Kippax will advise the community via their website https://kippax.org.au/ of ways in which donations can occur and when these donations will be accepted.

– Statement ends –

Section: Suzanne Orr, MLA | Media Releases

«ACT Government Media Releases | «Minister Media Releases

Free permits to support our restaurants, pubs

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 26/03/2020

More than 100 Canberra restaurants, pubs and licensed establishments have applied for a free three-month commercial liquor permit, enabling them to diversify their business by selling takeaway alcohol.

Minister for Business and Regulatory Services Gordon Ramsay said this initiative by the ACT Government would support business to keep their doors opened.

“The ACT Government continues to look for ways we can innovate and support our businesses who may be struggling through trade restrictions as a result of COVID-19,” he said.

“We understand many of our businesses are doing it tough. As well as financial support, outlined in the Government’s Economic Survival Package, we are also looking at other levers we use across government to enable businesses to diversify their offerings and services.

“One of the ways we are doing this is assisting offering licensees with on liquor licences (ie. restaurants and pubs) and general (clubs). We are offering them a free three-month commercial liquor permit. This will allow businesses to sell liquor for consumption off premises

“We are pleased that since we advised licensed business of this option 24 hours ago, 35 such permits have been issued through Access Canberra and the Business Liaison Team are talking with at least 70 more businesses about it.”

Canberrans are asked to maintain safe physical distancing when purchasing takeaway food or alcohol and should not be congregating in public places or organising and attending social gatherings.

Minister Ramsay said more than 125 local businesses had also contacted the dedicated Business Liaison Line (6205 0900) created to support them with their compliance responsibilities as well as how they may be able to diversify their business.

“The team answering the calls are drawn from across Access Canberra and with support of the Economic Development Directorate,” he said.

The Government is implementing these measures to support local businesses and we continue to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol.

A number of resources are available in the ACT If you or someone you know is feeling anxious or concerned about COVID-19.

– Statement ends –

Section: Gordon Ramsay, MLA | Media Releases

«ACT Government Media Releases | «Minister Media Releases

Delay to implementation of Network 19 update and changes to transport in response to COVID-19

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 24/03/2020

The ACT Government will delay the rollout of the Network 19 update that was due to be implemented at the start of Term 2, and begin a range of measures to ensure the safety of staff and the community.

“Canberrans are experiencing significant changes to daily routines as a result of COVID-19. Our focus must be on trying maintain services as far as possible and not creating confusion during this time by changing the bus timetable,” Minister for Transport Chris Steel said.

“Transport Canberra will continue to operate the current bus and light rail timetable for the time being, with contingencies prepared should there be a need to reduce services due to COVID-19. We will implement the Network 19 update at an appropriate time in the future.

“While bus and light rail services are continuing we are urging the community to only use them if absolutely necessary.

“Public transport services are essential for many in our community to get to the shops, to appointments or to work in essential services themselves.

“What we’re asking Canberrans to do is consider carefully their need for non-essential travel on public transport, to minimise unnecessary contact with other people.

“Canberrans should not use public transport if they feel unwell. If you have COVID-19 symptoms and have no other means of transport to get to a centre for testing, please contact Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to arrange alternative travel.”

Commencing today the following changes are also in effect on buses in the interest of community and driver safety:

No cash – drivers will no longer be accepting cash until further notice. This is to avoid unnecessary close interactions with the driver. Please use MyWay or pre-purchased tickets from ticket vending machines.

Use of rear doors – customers are to enter and exit the bus via the rear doors at all stops unless you require the front doors for low flor access.

Closure of front seats – the front seats of the bus will temporarily be closed off, providing more space between our drivers and customers.

For more information please visit www.transport.act.gov.au

– Statement ends –

Section: Chris Steel, MLA | Media Releases

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Homefront – A survival package for Canberra’s artists

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 24/03/2020

The ACT Government recognises the immediate support needed for Canberra artists who have lost their income and ability to maintain their arts practice as a result of COVID-19.

As part of a whole of Government response to the impacts of COVID-19, the Government has announced ‘Homefront’ a survival package for Canberra’s artists and creatives.

Funding of up to $10,000 per artist will be available to support arts development and the sustainability of their arts practices over the next 6-9 months. A total of $500,000 will be available.

Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries and Cultural Events Gordon Ramsay said that this new funding is being made available as soon as possible subject to a streamlined assessment process.

“For artists the process to apply for funding will be similar to the up to $5,000 funding rounds that the Government administers throughout the year,” Minister Ramsay said.

“This new program is designed to save as many local jobs as possible as our community and economy adjusts to this difficult and changing environment.

“The Government is a great supporter of Canberra’s creative industry and I’m glad that this package will provide essential and immediate relief to our creative sector.

“I encourage Canberra artists to remain vigilant, patient and understanding as we continue to guide and assist them through this period.”

Further information on funding is available at www.arts.act.gov.au and additional information will also be distributed via the artsACT e-newsletter.

If you are not already subscribed to the newsletter you can do this via the artsACT website.

Funding will be for activities including research and development, making of new works or sharing of works via online platforms, and for artists fees and living expenses to undertake arts activities.

Artists may also apply for the creation and development of works to be exhibited or performed in public venues in the future, when it becomes safe to undertake these activities.

Applicants will need to provide:

· a statement outlining how the funding will support their arts development and practice;

  • a brief bio; and
  • a current CV.

Applications will open on 30 March 2020 and will close on 17 April 2020 at 5pm.

Announcements on successful recipients will be made approximately 1 May 2020.

– Statement ends –

Section: Gordon Ramsay, MLA | Media Releases

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Statement: ACT Chief Minister

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 22/03/2020

Following similar announcements from the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of New South Wales, I will also be informing National Cabinet that the ACT will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours. I expect all states and territories will do the same.

I believe this decision is in the best interest of Canberrans, and will help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Despite measures in place to discourage social interaction, there are still too many instances where people are exposing themselves to contracting the virus which is leading to an unsustainable increase in confirmed cases across the country.

We must also face the reality that, as a Territory within NSW, it would be impossible for the ACT to have different arrangements than those in our surrounding region.

We will ensure that Canberrans continue to have access to the services they need – supermarkets, petrol stations, banks, pharmacies, post offices and convenience stores. Freight and logistics will also be considered as an essential service. Over the next 48 hours, we will define these essential services and work closely with retailers on their requirements.

As the ACT has maintained, we will be following the recommendations from National Cabinet on the operation of schools. We will be transitioning to an alternate distance education program for most students on Tuesday as well as continuing to provide a face to face education program for those students who need it.

I will be updating the community following National Cabinet this evening on next steps for the ACT.

– Statement ends –

Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases

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Canberrans advised to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canberra region

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 22/03/2020

Following the advice of the Commonwealth Government, the ACT Government is strongly urging Canberrans to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the Canberra region. Similar advice will be given to Australians in other states and territories.

The Government will also be immediately reviewing all public spaces across the Territory where gatherings may be occurring and closing them down. If they are on Commonwealth land, then we will be asking the Federal Government to do the same.

Stronger enforcement of self-isolation instructions to ensure people are doing the right thing and not potentially spreading the virus throughout the community will be considered at the National Cabinet this evening, with any new measures to be put in place in the Territory as soon as possible.

These are significant decisions that we are taking. We know that avoiding non-essential travel outside of the region will be difficult, and it will severely impact on the quality of life of Canberrans.

However, there should be no greater priority for our community than to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19. The number of cases in the ACT are on the rise, and Canberrans need to only look at what is happening in other countries to know what the consequences are if the nation cannot ‘flatten the curve’ of the virus.

Under this instruction, the only travel outside of the Canberra region should be for work, for ‘compassionate’ reasons and to ensure essential supplies and services.

We are urging Canberrans to take a common sense approach to this instruction, and carefully consider whether they have to travel outside of the region for any of these reasons.

The ACT Government will work with surrounding councils in the coming days to confirm these arrangements, but as a general principle – people that rely on the ACT for employment, supplies or access to health and education will be considered as part of the Canberra region.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have outlined another comprehensive economic stimulus package from the Federal Government. We will be carefully analysing these measures to inform our own economic stimulus response that will be required in the weeks ahead.

We cannot stress the seriousness of the situation our country, and our city, is now facing. Every decision we are making is painful, and it will impact on our local economy. We are doing this to try and save lives, but it’s only effective if all Canberrans make the necessary changes to help slow the spread of the virus. More onerous measures will be adopted in the weeks ahead, and they are likely to be in place throughout the pandemic.

– Statement ends –

Section: Andrew Barr, MLA | Media Releases

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Lyneham High School will be closed tomorrow

Source: Government of Australia Capital Territory

Released 22/03/2020

A case of COVID-19 has been identified in the ACT as connected to Lyneham High School.

Lyneham High School will be closed from tomorrow, Monday 23 March, for all students and staff.

This temporary closure will enable the school and health officials to work through a contact and containment strategy. This includes identifying and notifying any person who has been in recent contact with the affected person and for a thorough clean of the school.

Lyneham High School staff, students, parents and carers are not required to self-quarantine at home unless they have already been contacted directly by ACT Health. Anyone who is unwell should stay at home.

The Education Directorate is working with ACT Health to ensure the impacted members of the school community receive appropriate medical support.

The safety of students, staff and the school community is our priority.

All other schools will be open tomorrow, however pupil-free days will begin from Tuesday 24 March through to the school holidays for all schools, government and non-government.

This will provide schools and teachers with time to prepare for a range of learning delivery options, including online, similar to how distance education is provided in remote areas.

The ACT Education Directorate will provide options for school-age children whose parents and carers need to continue delivering essential services for Canberra during this period.

Schools are not closing.

The ACT school system is prepared to transition to alternative teaching models from term 2. Government schools are well placed for this shift, having invested significantly in devices for students and digital capability over recent years.

I have every confidence in the professionalism of our teaching staff and their ability to provide a quality education to our students during this period.

We want to make sure teachers, students and parents know what to expect as alternative delivery models are implemented to ensure we manage expectations and make this as seamless as possible.

I’d like to acknowledge the strength of our school communities, in particular, our teachers and school staff who have been keeping our children and young people calm, happy and learning during these extraordinary circumstances.

I’d also like to acknowledge this has been a challenging period for our families and students, and I thank you for your continued support.

– Statement ends –

Section: Yvette Berry, MLA | Media Releases

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