We are living in a renewed political environment since I last checked in! It was fascinating to observe the rise of the ‘Teal Independents’ at the Federal election and even more so the gripping count in Gilmore which has to be the most marginal seat in the country! Congratulations to all three of the Labour MPs who were elected. I have written to Alison Byrnes MP (Cunningham), Stephen Jones MP (Whitlam) and Fiona Phillips MP (Gilmore) requesting to meet with them to discuss some of the successes and challenges for preventative health programs in our region, and the capabilities of Healthy Cities Illawarra to deliver. I will remind them of the very unique place that Healthy Cities Illawarra holds in our region which can enable steady progress towards the strategies and objectives of the National Preventative Health Strategy 2021-30 and advocate for funding to help us do so. It will also be exciting to see how the new Federal Government fulfills its election promise to establish a Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the years ahead.
We are also keeping an eye on NSW – the recent state budget had very little commitment to prevention, and yet, it is the only way of truly relieving the crisis in the acute sector. One of our key advocacy areas is Active Transport – increasing the physical activity of our community is possibly the single biggest health intervention that can alleviate the chronic burden of disease, but it needs investment and cross-sectoral commitment – not only to improve the health of people, but of the environment through reduced carbon emissions and less traffic congestion. I was joined by colleagues Andy Mark and George Takacs when we recently met with the NSW Minister for Cities, Infrastructure and Active Transport Rob Stokes MP who was keenly receptive to initiatives to transform the Illawarra’s Active Transport culture and infrastructure. We also met with Shadow Minister for Transport Jo Haylen and Member for Wollongong Paul Scully MP on this issue and will continue to keep them updated on our work in this area, particularly our “More than a Cyclist” campaign (stay tuned) and our new advocacy project to increase active transport to the University of Wollongong.
Thirdly, we love local. We actively provided feedback to our local governments’ planning documents this quarter, particularly around transport and food security in the Community Strategic Plans of Wollongong, Shellharbour and also to Wollongong City Council’s Climate Friendly Planning Framework. It was great to be a part of the re-opening celebrations of Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre where I think I witnessed the cutest Acknowledgement of Country ever by the children from Bellambi Public School! And a tribute to our local volunteers. May 6-22 was National Volunteer Week where we attended a Volunteer Expo at Wollongong Town Hall, and showcased the many talents of our current volunteers, and the many opportunities that we can provide for people interested in volunteering. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers for your support!
In other news, Reconciliation Australia endorsed our Innovate RAP which we worked hard on refining; we received accreditation of a ‘Bike Friendly Business’ as part of Destination Wollongong’s Bike City program and we launched the sale of our new Bike Jerseys! This is the first time we have tried selling merchandise as a way of generating income to support our programs and advocacy efforts, so we would love to see our colours out on the road, and supporting our message of equity and health for all https://healthycities.org.au/shop/
I’d like to thank Janne Schwarck who moved on from our team recently for her energy and dedication to our Active Connections program with SCARF Refugee support. Our team, and all of the participants will miss her smiley personality and her sassy sustainability tips and tricks! Thanks also to Zahra from SCARF and Ashleigh who started with us as a volunteer and is now a valued team member – for holding the fort until we welcomed Elizabeth Boachie-Poku to the team as Active Connections Coordinator!
Thank you for taking the time to read my first quarterly update.