Catholic Social Services Victoria has released two reports, which outline the social service and infrastructure needs of rural and regional communities living in the Great South Coast and surrounds, and in Gippsland. Building on long standing engagement and recent consultation work conducted in the Warrnambool and Gippsland areas in 2019, the reports reflect the experience of people working in their local communities with individuals and groups who face isolation and disadvantage; circumstances that have been further exacerbated by the devastating impact of COVID-19, and the bushfires in Gippsland.
The reports highlight a number of significant factors that impact people seeking assistance, such as the few psychosocial mental health programs available and the need for people to leave the region to receive ongoing mental health and specialist treatment. Long distances required for travel, plus the ongoing high costs of having a car, or using public transport further limits the ability of people to access health and specialist treatment.
The consultations brought up a range of issues and also outline a number of practical recommendations, which have been submitted to Infrastructure Victoria to assist in the development of their 2020 update to the state’s 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy. These recommendations include the need to improve public transport, resourcing for social services and mental health services, and reducing homelessness and housing stress. Digital access and literacy must be improved to increase community connections, particularly for older people and those who are socially isolated.
"The work in assisting our vulnerable members of society, particularly those in rural and regional communities, is one that we continue to necessarily undertake collectively and collaboratively — with our 45 member agencies of Catholic Social Services Victoria, our Victorian Church leaders, agencies and parishes, our broader sector partners, and with the Government," said Joshua Lourensz, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria. "Our 2019 Annual Report for Catholic Social Services Victoria also gives a good overview of our work throughout last year and our current makeup."
"The reports have been sent to Victorian government representatives in the hope that these reports provide some assistance in the important work they do, and the decisions they need to make as we work to remedy the issues identified, along with a number of other key stakeholders."
Read the full report, Social Service and Infrastructure Needs in Gippsland, here, and download the Gippsland Media Release, here.
Read the full report, Social Service and Infrastructure Needs in the Great South Coast and Surrounds, here, and download the Warrnambool Media Release, here.