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A | Thank you for your question. This has become a critical question for educators and parents as children return to school after a number of months completing off campus learning. As you note, particular attention is being paid to the implications for children who may be disadvantaged such as those with learning difficulties or disabilities. I have attached a recent report that was requested by the Federal Minister for Education that speaks directly to your question. It is entitled “Learning at home during COVID-19: effects on vulnerable young Australians”.

At this stage, it is important that we consider how best to minimise any negative impact of this time away from campus-based learning. For students with learning difficulties and disabilities this could have also meant time away from additional supports provided by occupational therapists, speech pathologists and the like. Re-assessing where the child is up to in their knowledge and skills will be an important first step to help determine how best to assist them. Similarly, efforts need to be made to maximise the smoothness of the transition back as this could lead to missed learning opportunities. In this way, maximising wellbeing and school belongingness must be a focus. Finally, for some families the experience of off-campus learning has meant that they have become more acutely aware of the learning strengths and needs of their child. Schools need to listen carefully to families to gather this information whilst families need to advocate for their child based on this knowledge. It is recognised, however, that this has not been the experience of all families during this time.

Dr Danielle Tracey

Associate Professor | Educational and Developmental Psychology | Disability Studies
Evaluation Research Theme Champion – Education and Work, School of Education
Translational Health Research Institute | Western Sydney University


A | Every class and teacher has their own way of doing things at school; the same applies to online learning. The fit between a child’s learning style, and how their teacher/school approach online learning, has a significant impact on learning now, and when they transition back to school.

On a plus side, online learning is likely to have provided new ways of doing most school activities. Many children have found this change fun, they’re proud of the many new skills (particularly technology skills) they have developed. They have also enjoyed the independence that online learning has required. The skills developed as a result has benefit long term for their learning.

If a child has found online learning difficult, for example they consistently did not finish the work, did not have the chance to physically sit with the teacher for help, or if they found the work repetitive or difficult to complete at home, then it’s likely that their confidence will be down.

This does not mean that their learning long term will be impacted. It does mean however that they will need extra support once they return to school.
Children with learning difficulties or disabilities have their own distinct learning needs. While a parent is not a teacher, it’s likely that a child benefitted from learning with their parent’s support.

For children of all abilities, teachers are specialists in knowing their students’ progress and the steps they next need to take in their learning. Adjustments to the school content have likely been made by their teachers during online learning, and teachers will continue with more adjustments when children return to the classroom.

Dr Joanne Orlando

Researcher and Educator in Digital Family Life
Western Sydney University

A | The psychological impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on children will vary widely. Children whose family circumstances are good, where parents or caregivers have been able to be responsive to them and caring, will not experience any negative psychological impacts. In fact, many children may have improved wellbeing as a result of spending more time with their family. Their education may also have been assisted from the one-to-one attention at home. Infants and toddlers may have particularly benefited as their mothers and fathers have had fewer demands on their time. This has allowed them to provide sensitive care and to focus on their relationships during a critical stage of development. Children who are in foster or kinship care are often in need of intense emotional support and may have had their wellbeing improved from the additional time with their careers. However, they may also have suffered if in person contact with members of their birth family was suspended during the lockdown.

However, in situations where children’s family circumstances are not good, where parents are stressed or struggling, there may be a negative psychological impact. Loss of employment and financial stress because of COVID-19 may exacerbate poor mental health and reduce the coping capacity of parents and caregivers who were previously doing fine. Under stress or with poor mental health, parents can find it difficult to be responsive to their children and, in some circumstances, caregiving may be inadequate. We know that rates of domestic violence have risen in the lockdown and exposure to this violence causes psychological harm to children. Children for whom school had been a refuge will be adversely affected by not having the respite from family challenges and the support that caring school staff and friends can provide. Lack of face-to-face support for new mothers with the cancelation of mothers groups may leave new parents feeling isolated and may make it more difficult for them to care for their infants.

Dr Karleen Gribble

Adjunct Associate Professor | School of Nursing and Midwifery
Western Sydney University

A |  Stressors of self-isolation and quarantine include a reduction in or loss of social and physical contact with others, increase in boredom and frustration, and loss of structure. As structure is an important part of the emotional and psychological development of children, lack of structure associated with school closures is one of the primary challenges.

Self-isolation and disruption to usual routine have also raised concerns about an increased risk of violence, abuse, and neglect of children. Evidence shows that after disasters, the risk of violence, abuse, and neglect increases, following disruption to structure, routine, and access to support.

School closures further impact children that access mental health support resources through their schools. A March 2020 survey of 2,111 young people with a history of mental health needs (age range: 13-25; average age: 16-17) found that 26% of participants were not able to access mental health support during the pandemic, with 83% reporting that the pandemic had made their mental health worse.

Clear, honest, and age-appropriate communication (considering the child’s developmental stage and comprehension levels) can reduce adverse psychological responses to the pandemic and should be used as an intervention. Resources on effective communication with children about Covid-19:

Protecting the psychological health of children through effective communication about COVID-19

Coronavirus and your mental health – How to talk to your kids about the coronavirus (Phoenix Australia)

Dr Anna Denejkina

Lecturer | Graduate Research School
Western Sydney University

A | Background

The coronavirus pandemic led to rapid and major changes to the amount and type of federal government spending. The federal government has spent about $214 billion on a range of measures to support the economy during the shutdown, on social safety nets such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker as well as social services such as free childcare, among others, many of which are set to run out in just a few months. While over $200 billion sounds like (and is) a lot of money, the economic impact of even a 1% fatality rate on our population of 25 million would have been over $1.1 trillion. This spending has been vital to protecting us through this crisis but it complicates the federal government’s own long-held priority to deliver a surplus in October’s budget (after being heavy critics of the opposition Government’s spending when in power).

Not all Debt is the Same or Bad

The reality is that when it comes to the nation’s economic wellbeing, not all debt is the same and not all of it is bad, especially when we are experiencing an economic downturn. For instance, the 2008 Global Financial Crisis saw the Rudd government take on debt to provide an economic stimulus of $51 billion and Australia narrowly avoiding an economic recession.

Even with the revelation that the JobKeeper scheme costs were overestimated by $60 billion, there are concerns, such as those raised by Labor leader Anthony Albanese last month, that economic expenditure on stimulus measures would ‘saddle a generation with $1 trillion in debt’. The fear underpinning this statement is one that relies on a false equivalence. Despite the easy comparisons, household debt and national debt are not analogous. While the level of sensible expenditure in a household is directly tied to cash flows, income and access to credit by its members, the Australian national economy is not simply a representation of our money, the debits and credits that make up our financial position. Instead, the real national economy relates more to our capacity as a country to produce and distribute goods and services, which is also known as our ‘productivity’. The level of national productivity is related to the level of employment as it correlates with the level of utilisation of available resources (human and otherwise), equipment and infrastructure. When more Australians are employed, more of these resources are being productively used to generate and distribute goods and services.

So public debt is not the same as debt like a mortgage, taken out against the value of an asset such as a home, but rather public debt is borrowed against the asset that is the productive capacity of the whole Australian economy, which is a very different situation. Even with the short-to medium term disruption to our economy because of the pandemic, Australia retains its strong long-term position as a country with many natural and national resources, a capable workforce and a stable governance and regulatory framework for doing business. We are experiencing disrupted productivity but this is a temporary situation.

Importance of Government Spending During Crisis

Government spending in a crisis is able to stimulate economic activity in a generative and multiplicative way because every dollar received is either spent or saved. ‘Deficit spending’, or the $214 billion expenditure for support measures, can be understood as a “transfer of resources from one part of society to another rather than a cost. It creates neither direct costs nor benefits for society as a whole, other than the economic distortions coming from raising the revenue to service the spending.” The $130 billion in stimulus spending was intended to help curb the economic downturn by increasing the available resources and taking advantage of the marginal propensity for spending by those in receipt of the money. With the actual payouts being $60 billion less than was forecasted to be disbursed through the scheme, the economic impacts will likely be slower/less potent as a result because this is $60 billion less being directed back into the economy for productive use and we will not see that multiplier effect on that money.

The stimulus measures have been targeted to those who might have a higher propensity to spend or consume such as those with lower incomes rather than on those who have a higher propensity to save. The Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) has already raised debt of $105 billion by selling government bonds to the market and is continuing to do so at a rate of $5 billion per week. The government has denied plans for any further stimulus measures to be enacted with that money, despite the fact that the funds have been raised. There has been calls for an expansion of eligibility for support to more casuals and temporary migrants (many of whom are young people) and encouraged other spending initiatives to be implemented such as spending on schools and public infrastructure.

Impact Going Forward

The question of the impact of this crisis on future generations has no easy answers and extends beyond economics and servicing government debt. It has more to do with the emotional and mental effects of living, studying, working or becoming unemployed during a health pandemic. To have all elements of young persons’ world changed so quickly and dramatically and for extended periods of time with discussions of “new normal” are the concerns. The stimulus spending by the different levels of governments will provide, as designed, the financial safety nets for Australians and this debt will be reduced in the future. For young people, the stresses of what they had experienced and their ability to adjust will challenge more their system and personal supports and their resilience. In terms of how the human sector can support young people, this centres on supporting them in funding continued studies in higher education through free TAFE and university courses for retraining and prioritising low skilled and youth for employment programs.

Dr Kathy Tannous

Senior Lecturer | Economics, Finance and Property, School of Business
Senior Research Fellow | Translational Health Research Institute
Western Sydney University

A | Background

Western Sydney is a vibrant region of New South Wales that houses an estimated 2.5 million people, which is approximately 30% of the state’s population and 10% of the Australian population (.id, n.d.). It is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and is expected to surpass the rest of the Sydney area by 2031, with an exceptionally rapid growing white collar population (Deloitte, 2015, p. 25). Western Sydney is incredibly culturally diverse, with over 290 ancestral ethnicities put forward by residents in the 2016 Census and more than 230 languages spoken in homes across the region (SGS Economics and Planning 2018, p. 34). It also has the largest concentration of Aboriginal people out of any region in the country (2018, p. viii). The rest of Greater Sydney will be referred to as Eastern Sydney that encompasses the remaining 20 LGAs and stretches to the Eastern coast, as far south as the Sutherland Shire and as far north as Hornsby Shire. This area encompasses approximately 1,620 square kilometres and has an estimated population of 2.8 million (Deloitte, 2015, p. 4; City of Sydney, 2020).

Challenges Facing Western Sydney

All art forms across Western Sydney, from visual art to music, are faced with the challenge of underfunded and undersupplied infrastructure. In particular, the areas of literature, dance, and film have little to no infrastructure designed specifically for the intended practice of these arts (SGS Economics and Planning, 2018, p. vii). This poses a massive issue for Western Sydney creatives who need spaces to train, collaborate, create and exhibit their work. Furthermore, while the region has five Creative and Performing Arts High Schools, there is no dedicated tertiary art school, which hinders the ability of young artists to continue to learn and develop their skills after secondary school (Deloitte, 2015, p. 51; Stevenson et al., 2017, p. 4). The Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury regions have the largest proportion of visual arts spaces, which are predominantly privately-owned galleries and studios, and Parramatta has the highest number of heritage spaces. Libraries comprise the majority of arts and culture spaces in most of the other LGAs. Wollondilly is particularly undersupplied, having no visual arts, multi purpose, film, or literature spaces as well as no leading arts organisations (SGS Economics and Planning, 2018, p. iii).

Economic Issues

Overall, Western Sydney’s gross regional product (GRP) is expected to drop by between 5% (Parramatta, the Hills Shire and Hawkesbury) to 10% per annum (Fairfield and Cumberland) (Duke & Wright, 2020). For the region, arts and culture comprises 1% of its GRP compared to the state at 2.6% of the gross state product. Funding for this sector is provided predominantly through the Australian Council for the Arts (federal), Create NSW and NSW Historic Houses Trust (state). Western Sydney received 1% and 5% from federal and state sources respectively between 2008 to 2014 compared to 36% and 87% respectively for Eastern Sydney (Deloitte, 2015, p. 14) with the majority for institutions in the City of Sydney. In addition, the focus in public discourse on Western Sydney’s arts and culture is predominantly focused on Parramatta diminishing the artistic and cultural landscape of the rest of the region (SGS Economics and Planning, 2018, p. 109).

Coronavirus Initiatives

The NSW government recently released a $50 million stimulus package called ‘Rescue and Restart’ aimed at supporting arts and culture organisations across the state. The funding package will be rolled out in two stages: stage 1 immediately to support organisations to ‘hibernate’, and stage 2 expected in the next several months that will allow organisations to re-open as the pandemic eases up (Create NSW, 2020). A further $6.34 million was allocated as specific COVID-19 relief for small- to medium-sized businesses in the cultural sector, totaling around $56.3 million from the state government (Eltham, 2020). On a federal level, Australia Council announced a $5 million Resilience Fund to help support artists and cultural organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic and an additional $27 million Relief and Recovery Fund aimed at providing assistance to areas of the arts and culture sector most affected by COVID-19, specifically regional arts, Indigenous arts and live music (Australia Council for the Arts, 2020; Australian Government, 2020). The Job Keeper Payment Scheme for businesses has been noted as having little relief for the arts sector with many artists and creatives work on short term contracts or relying on royalties or advances compromising their eligibility for the scheme (Morrow & Long, 2020). Local councils are also releasing funding packages such as Parramatta City Council rolling out a $3 million relief and recovery package to support local businesses, including small business grants of up to $2,000 (Fulloon, 2020).
Where to from here?

Western Sydney’s arts and creative community can work together to secure as much funding as possible from local, state and federal coronavirus relief packages. The Relief and Recovery fund is aimed at supporting disadvantaged groups within the arts and culture sector. As the region has the highest proportion of Indigenous people out of any region in Australia, it would be beneficial to capitalise on the Commonwealth’s interest in Aboriginal art.
The industry can move to different forms of offerings to cater to the current climate by making online offerings and virtual tours. This has already started to occur with the Bankstown Poetry Slam, a huge monthly event that hosts international talent and draws an audience from all over Sydney, has moved to online virtual slams (Bankstown Poetry Slam, 2020). Additionally, areas such as the Blue Mountains that have a high number of private art spaces but rely heavily on tourism for income were hit hard by recent bushfires and have not been able to recover due to severe drops in travel resulting from COVID-19 (Carruthers, 2020; Patterson, 2020; Hennessy, 2020). Expanding into digital offerings would increase interest in the spaces, exhibitions, and artists, potentially driving up attendance when travel bans are lifted.

For a list of references, email The Q&A Portal

Dr Kathy Tannous

Senior Lecturer | Economics, Finance and Property, School of Business
Senior Research Fellow | Translational Health Research Institute
Western Sydney University

A | If your Centre is not yet open to the public but does have staff and volunteers able to plan how to reach out to those who DO NOT HAVE ACCESS to information on internet/social media via digital data or devices. Tackle the EXCLUSION!

NOW is the time for neighbourhood-based Centres to network, draw on and build and work with, other local organisations, local councils, meals on wheels, local health centres, home care, residential care providers – be the bridge with others who also have the connections…

  1. Find out what your local council is doing – it may surprise you!• Check if the local Council has a map of where the most vulnerable groups in the area are, if so work with them to focus your efforts
    • Also check if the local council has some resources in relevant community languages that your Centre can promote
    • Are there large Clubs in your area that have a commitment to their Patrons – do these intersect with your Centre’s priorities?
    • Many councils have made special arrangements to assist people during COVID
  1. Make contact with your local Member of Parliament – to collaborate and find out if they are taking action in relation to people who are not digitally connected now.
  2. Make the connections, build the database to respond to this new set of demands. What is it that people are saying they need?
    • LEEP: Understanding Technology through community and volunteer development. Check out the Resources page!• Older Persons Advocacy Network website
    • NSW Government services: e.g. Department of Communities and Justice
    • Federal Government services
    • NCOSS COVID-19 Community Sector Resource
    • WSCF COVID-19 Sector Support Hub
  1. Put together a team of volunteers with phone and computer skills that can offer phone based information about what services are available. Offer responsive contacts and keep track of the different requests to plan being strategic as the pandemic demands ebb and flow.
  2. The Centre itself could engage in extra letterbox drops of:
    • Newsletters [a pandemic edition with more local news, more fun things, more puzzles, etc] plus lots of emergency contact numbers and sources of assistance
    • Specific local community pandemic information/images in main community languages – an individual A5 or A6 flier for example
    • Source assistance packs of food, school supplies etc,  for those struggling and/or needing support. Work with community, business and MP partners. These would also be advertised on the flier and once someone phoned and they were assessed for eligibility, staff and MPs etc would drop the assistance packs to people, leaving them at their front doors
  1. Depending on the type of housing, asking community leaders for ideas of how they could keep neighbours in touch, eg: like the singing we have seen in Italy or France
    • could balconies be utilised?
    • could staff organise music and a group of singers to drive to different areas within the community/neighbourhood and lead the community in some singalongs?
    • the times/dates could also have been letterboxed, so people are aware of when to join in
    • perhaps also a competition of some sort, or colourful balconies or windows [some areas asked people to put bears in windows so children could go on a ”bear hunt” while doing their exercise
    • by now probably most of us are aware of the ”Bin Isolation Outing” Facebook page that has received media coverage worldwide…neighbourhood centers could get the word out around their community, for people to plan to dress up near their bins or letter boxes on a given day/time. Staff could drive around and take photos which would then become a community newsletter, dropped to each residence. Of course there could also be prizes of essential items
    • regular updates could occur via newsletter…some community members would help with the letterboxing, as it is part of their exercise
    • a walking activity or other physical activity could also be organised weekly or similar…perhaps a ”scavenger hunt” within the community, a fitness challenge [like walk-a-thon, stair-a-thon, garden path-a thon- where residents could tick off the number of circuits completed, during the isolation]
  1. Ensure that there is a focus on continuing information updates, have a strategic plan for a 12 month period, plus community development strategies to promote community spirit, engagement in activity, fun, capacity and resilience, while also ensuring those struggling are supported.
  2. The Centre could also take the approach to access local businesses, banks, government departments, charities, printing and business supplies to seek second hand computers from community members (nb: must be verified by the donor as working) to play a brokerage role in providing an opportunity for digitally excluded community members to access devices or data during this time. If they had the resources available to do this it would fill a gap and whilst during a pandemic it would need to be at an individual/family level it could still be the beginning of longer term building connections, new levels of trust, etc.
  3. Develop lists of relevant grants that may assist. Assist volunteers and students to bring these to the staff to have a strategic approach to meeting the needs arising within your Centre, with an awareness of the time demands to achieve these.
  1. Take care of you, your staff and your volunteers:
    • plan time out for each of you;
    • share laughs, surprises of humanity & creativity;
    • recognise the different needs that different people may have.
Dr Justine O’Sullivan

Lecturer & Academic Course Advisor Bachelor Community Welfare & Bachelor of Social Work
Western Sydney University

A | With the spread of COVID-19, we have seen a mushrooming of various technologies and digital media to manage, control and ascertain the growth of the pandemic. These extend from information apps, contact tracing apps and interventions from the Artificial Intelligence (AI) space, including modelling simulations. Further, a lot of the information regarding the virus has been provided through social media channels. The Australian Government has introduced two mobile apps primarily and both have received mixed reviews. Particularly, the contact tracing app has seen the emergence of privacy concerns. Also, these apps require updated operating systems on smart phones. All this means that a certain segment of the population who may not be tech savvy or who may not be able to interpret the technical specifics of the apps, its requirements and limitations maybe left out or wary of using them.

Dr Omar Mubin

Senior Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction
Western Sydney University

A |  There are a range of organisations that provide some excellent resources that deal specifically with workplace mental health and I have provided below a list that include my favourite ones:

• Black Dog Institute Workplace Mental Health Toolkit – Practical Guide and Resources
• Black Dog Institute Coronavirus Resources for Anxiety and Stress
• Heads Up/Beyond Blue Healthy Workplaces
• Heads Up/Beyond Blue Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace
• Heads Up/Beyond Blue Work and your Mental Health during the Coronavirus Outbreak
• Mental Health First Aid Australia COVID-19 Health and Mental Health Resources

In general, borrowing directly from some of the sources above, the recommendations are:

• Maintain regular communication with your employees
• Keep staff up to date about your business’ response to the coronavirus outbreak
• Work with your team to develop a plan
• Demonstrate healthy work habits (see below)
• Keep your team accountable
• Make sure your staff are aware of the supports that are available to them (for example, if you have an Employee Assistance Program [EAP] in place as well as external providers such as Beyond Blue, Black Dog, Lifeline and others)

If you’re concerned about an employee, make sure to check-in, have a conversation with them and encourage them to get the support they need

• Be aware that individual circumstances vary and consider options to support each team member’s needs
• Provide strong IT support and guidelines for remote working so employees can be fully productive
• Agree on working hours that employees know they are not expected to work beyond
• Touch base with each team member daily and have regular longer one-to-one meetings
• Remind employees to work in ways that are kind to their mind and body
• Maintain regular virtual team meetings
• Advise teams to stay as connected as possible
• Remember that being a manager doesn’t make you immune to the same stresses as your employees and that you need to look after yourself too.

Advice you can give to your staff if they are working from home:

• Maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting time limits
• Create a separate office or workspace, if possible
• Move around every hour, and go outside once a day (if it’s responsible to do so)
• Choose a good chair and set up your computer properly
• Keep connected to colleagues and communicate daily with your manager
• Set a work schedule for the day and stick to it
• Shower, and dress comfortably, as if you’re going to the office
• Try a digital detox in the evenings
• Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy snacks and meals.

Dr Arianne Reis

Senior Lecturer | School of Health Sciences and Translational Health Research Institute (THRI)
Western Sydney University

A |  COVID-19 has exacerbated many of the income and wealth inequalities that exist in Australia. There are vast job losses across many industries from tourism to the arts. Already high rates of unemployment amongst young people are soaring and school and university leavers will face an uncertain employment future.

COVID-19 gives us pause to rethink those inequalities. The essential role of our public health and welfare infrastructures is clear. Without the increased Job Seeker rate and the Job Keeper program many millions of Australians would be in extreme poverty. The impacts of an ‘economic snapback’, a sudden withdrawal of payments, would be shattering.

Childcare workers, teachers and carers in the aged care sector are some of the most underpaid and undervalued in the country. Yet as parents struggle to work with children at home and we face outbreaks in nursing homes the vital care work of these key workers is highlighted.

COVID-19 also highlights the importance of secure affordable housing for all. People living in overcrowded and insecure dwellings or who are homeless are at higher risk of COVID-19, and this brings community risk. COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to think about what we value in housing. Do we value housing as economic asset or do we value it as a dwelling, a care infrastructure and social good?

Western Sydney is rich because it is diverse. But many in our community are struggling. Asylum seekers, migrant workers and international students have been denied access to welfare support and many are in crisis. It will be difficult to recover from this health crisis if some are left behind.
COVID-19 brings opportunity for sustained social and economic reform, putting the things we value at the top of the public agenda. In coming months and years, it will become important that we stand up and advocate for the changes that we want to see.

Dr Emma Power

Senior Lecturer in Geography and Urban Studies
School of Social Sciences/Institute for Culture and Society | Western Sydney University

A | The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing affordability across Western Sydney is likely to be highly regionally variable. Some parts of Western and South Western Sydney have large volumes of new apartment developments set to come online over the next few years. It is likely that these areas will experience the biggest price drops. Parramatta is especially likely to experience market impacts. With large numbers of apartments in development and one of highest rates of job loss in the state, it is likely that this market will become more affordable for renters and buyers over the short to medium term.

This is a critical moment for expanded social housing investment. In NSW, the government has raised the possibility of buying up surplus apartment stock. Construction of new social housing can be a crucial spoke in government stimulus programs, delivering long-term social and economic benefits across the region. In my work with single older women living in the private rental sector, social housing is a vital lifeline providing a pathway out of a retirement struggling to afford food and pay essential bills. Housing needs to be affordable to all, and the state in conjunction with community housing providers in our region can play a critical role in ensuring this future.

Dr Emma Power

Senior Lecturer in Geography and Urban Studies
School of Social Sciences/Institute for Culture and Society | Western Sydney University


A | 
Housing Affordability is measured by looking at both income levels and house prices in an area. In the short run, demand for housing has flattened – as people are less inclined to move during the COVID pandemic, adopting a ‘wait and see’ mentality, and consumer confidence in the housing market is very low. We have also had a falloff in demand for housing from overseas buyers which will take a long time to pick up once restrictions have fully eased and international migration resumes in the longer term.

When referring to affordability, falling house prices is only one part of the picture. The other is robust incomes. Even though prices may decline, this does not necessarily mean houses will become more affordable eg in Western Sydney. This is because incomes could fall faster than property values in the short term. Over the past month, property analysts have tracked the way that value of Sydney housing market has come down by less than half a percent, but payroll job losses between mid-March and mid-April have been more severe across the outer south west (-4.9%) and the outer west and blue mountains (-5.7%).

To add to the complexity – house prices are currently insulated by banks offering ‘mortgage holidays’ to homeowners. Once this period ends, e.g. by mid-September, and if economic conditions have not improved, we may witness a more significant decline in property prices, people defaulting on their mortgages, out of work and suffering real financial (and emotional) stress, if employment levels do not pick up.

Whilst it will take time for the economy to recover, the NSW government is focusing its economic stimulus package on infrastructure projects and associated job creation initiatives, which includes Western Sydney’s Aerotropolis and its key Education and Health precincts. If two people in a household have become out of work as a result of the COVID pandemic, they may well be prepared to move to Western Sydney’s activation precincts when previously they may not have considered this move. Chasing jobs, increasing owner occupier demand, thus house price increases will therefore resume in the medium and longer term.

It is hard to predict how, when and if the economy will bounce back to full scale operations but most property analysts are optimistically expecting house prices to start recovering around early to mid-2021. The critical issue is that whilst we all want the economy to pick up again, we also want every one in Western Sydney to benefit from its revival and not to be out priced from the market. It is a complex balancing act and a very good question.

Professor Nicky Morrison

Professor Of Planning | Geography And Urban Studies
Western Sydney University

A |  Staff who send their children to school are not necessary more vulnerable as the majority of COVID-19 infections have not come from school kids. Even when the kids have had COVID-19 there has not been evidence of them infecting many others. Only 2% of the COVID-19 cases in Australia have been in children under 15. Why this is the case is still unknown. Obviously don’t send your child to school if they are feeling unwell. This Conversation article might provide you with some reassurance. As with all people keep the children a distance from others, lots of handwashing and proper coughing and sneezing practices are key. I would not be letting kids hug and kiss others at this stage and get them to keep their distance from those at risk but no need to get overly concerned.

Read More

Dr Hannah Dahlen AM

Professor of Midwifery | Associate Dean Research and HDR
Midwifery Discipline Lead, School of Nursing and Midwifery | Western Sydney University

A |  Accounting For Good’s NDIS clients are actually in a very good position despite COVID-19 – one has even been able to extend the reach of their online group programs to regional NSW for the first time – so it is possible to survive or even thrive in the circumstances. Let’s explore how…

You have a couple of opportunities in terms of income.

A first step would be to enrol for the JobKeeper subsidy – 31 May is the deadline to claim for April and May. If you satisfy the decline in turnover test for the April-June quarter, you are eligible to claim from the beginning of the scheme. You can continue to test your eligibility and enrol at any time – the scheme runs through to the end of September 2020. JobKeeper provides $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee – that’s a substantial income support to keep the organisation afloat. You can read our guidance about it here or visit the ATO for detailed information.

Can you deliver your service differently?

The other opportunity is to consider how you can deliver your services differently. Could any of your services be delivered online or contactless? What would it take – think personal protective equipment and health testing – to be able to provide your regular services in a way that protects both clients and staff? Engage your team and your clients in imagining what could work.

Remember that you will get the second cash flow boost over July-October – it will be equivalent to the payment you received after submitting your March Business Activity Statement (BAS), and will be paid in four instalments after you submit the June BAS.

On the expense side you will need to contain your costs wherever possible – wages are an obvious place to start being typically 75%+ of a not for profit’s expenses. Perhaps you can stand down staff who are unable to work (they can still receive JobKeeper through you) and cease contractors. You can redeploy staff to other tasks or you can encourage staff to take some leave – maybe looking slightly more attractive with travel restrictions due to ease from 1 June.

If you qualify for JobKeeper then you have the right to negotiate deferral or waiver of commercial rent for your premises. You could consider reducing your cleaning service if the premises are being used less.

Go through your budget

We encourage you to go through your budget and your current financials to identify items that can be eliminated, reduced or deferred. Understanding your fixed, variable, direct and indirect costs will be important so you can nimbly adjust to changing scenarios. Depending on what your reimagined service delivery looks like, you may need to consider additional costs such as PPE or IT subscriptions such as Zoom.

As to the future – we agree that planning is really difficult right now.

Given the uncertainty, we think it is especially important to approach your budget planning with some strategic thinking – don’t just start with the numbers, really give some thought to how you think your service can respond in various situations – easing restrictions, second wave, continued restrictions.

Then apply that thinking to your budget and prepare a few versions – start with what you feel is most likely and make sure you identify your fixed and variable costs. Then iterate that budget for the alternate scenarios. Make sure you note your assumptions! You’ll be pleased you did when you look back at it 6-12 months and try to remember what you were thinking mid-pandemic.

Accounting For Good is a partner on Western Sydney Community Forum’s expert panel to support community sector agencies during COVID

Ms Kirsten Forrester
Chief Executive Officer  |  Accounting For Good

A |  In South Western Sydney (here referring to the local health district boundary including Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Camden, Campbelltown, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee) the characteristics of cases have been similar to elsewhere in metropolitan Sydney. There have been to date (22 May) 259 cases and 4 deaths in elderly residents of aged care facilities. Nearly all of the remainder have recovered. 117 (45%) of the cases were overseas acquired, 99 (38%) close contacts of known cases and 43 (17%) were classified as unknown source. We saw no cases from Wuhan and did not see our first case until 1 March in a traveller who returned from Iran. The peak in our local epidemic was in late March and is explained by returned international travellers particularly from the Ruby Princess Cruise Ship but also from the United States and UK. We saw more positive returned travellers in the Southern Highlands and Camden reflecting a demographic that can afford travel. Many of the close contacts were household contacts reflecting a general difficulty in preventing transmission in households. Some of our households had larger and more complex families, and standards of accommodation sometimes poorer, making transmission in households harder to prevent. As in other parts of metropolitan Sydney we had a cases in a variety of settings including a workplace cluster, an aged care facility outbreak and had isolated cases in a child care centre and a school. The unknown source category is perhaps more interesting and reflects in some way our demographic characteristics and points to priority populations where there are higher risks of transmission. We saw a cluster associated over several households with people who use drugs. Community transmission was very limited but probably did occur in some parts of our district during the peak of the epidemic. CALD communities, Aboriginal people, homeless people, young people were not particularly affected possibly because of the very limited scale of the epidemic in South Western Sydney. We did see sporadic unknown source cases in our working population including taxi and bus drivers and health care workers who were exposed during their work often outside our district.

Dr Stephen Conaty
Director Population Health  |  South Western Sydney Local Health District

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