Australia has a three-tier government system. The federal government looks after immigration, airports and air safety, Medicare, Centrelink, tax, foreign affairs, defence and tertiary education. State governments look after local hospitals, schools, main roads, railways, fire services, police services, ambulance services and car registrations and drivers’ licenses.
Local governments, or councils, look after local projects, local communities, local roads and the local environment. Your local council is likely to be offering a number of supports and services that will be particularly useful during COVID-19.
During the initial COVID-19 outbreak, many libraries closed their doors to the public, but kept delivering services. Some councils in some states were able to continue providing loans of books and resources by either preparing them for collection or providing delivery. Many library services also provided educational resources online. Joining a local library is free and will give you access to a huge collection of physical books, CDs, and DVDs as well as collections of magazines, books, and publications online.
If you have a small business, it is worth connecting with your local council. Many councils employ economic or business development officers who work to try and grow businesses in the local area. Councils may be able to assist you to promote your business, via their publications, website or social media. Councils may also provide training that will help you with specific areas of your business, such as marketing or accounts. Councils also often need to acquire goods and services to be able to run their projects and programs. When a council requires assistance with a big project, they will often seek to commence a tender, or agreement with a business, to provide them what they need to complete the project.
Many councils provide supports to vulnerable residents and groups. Older people may be entitled to support services to assist them at home, with tasks such as cleaning. Other councils provide meal services to older people. Social support programs for older people and people with disabilities also provide opportunity for connection in the community. Some councils run programs and activities for children and young people.
In most states in Australia, councils will be helping to ensure public health in several ways. Lots of councils have food safety inspectors, who will check that standards for food safety are being met by food businesses such as take-always, but also at special events where food is provided. Although there is no vaccine for COVID-19, many councils do provide immunization services for children and adults and it is important to keep up to date with immunizations to avoid getting preventable diseases.
Many councils offer grants to individuals, groups, and business, under particular funding streams. Grants may be available to enable your children to attend sports programs or trips, and some councils even offer scholarships for students to purchases resources or technology. Local community groups and associations may be eligible for funding for programs, to help them to be able to provide food, clothing and bedding to those really in need. Councils will often fund community events or celebrations, or help cover the costs of putting on an event by providing bins, traffic control or clean up services. Some councils are making special funds available to support communities considering COVID-19.
Services and programs offered by councils do vary around each state and also nationally, so check your council’s website for specific details.