Dear LVI Member Groups, landcare support staff & friends,
We would like to acknowledge the significant impact the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having on communities and individuals across the world. Our thoughts go out to those who have been directly impacted by the pandemic. We have had a number of conversations with members over the last few days about how this impacts Landcare activities and as the situation rapidly changes, many organisations are taking proactive measures to reduce the strain and burden of the potential spread, including delaying or cancelling events and closing offices. To that end, LVI staff will be working remotely until further notice to avoid public transport, and we are transitioning to teleconferences and considering scaling back future events. Emails will be answered as usual and we are diverting phones over the next couple of days so please be patient as we work through this process and send us an email if you can’t get through or don’t receive a response.
Monitor & Act
LVI Member Groups will need to take additional care when considering, organising or undertaking your normal activities, particularly if they involve vulnerable people. This might include enabling and validating social distancing at your event and having alcohol based hand sanitiser as part of your event kit, or transitioning to “virtual” events to maintain positive connections.
Some LVI member groups have already decided to postpone or cancel planned events, forums or workshops. Different groups will be make different decisions based on local needs and balancing the very real benefits of maintaining Landcare connections vs any public health risk – what is appropriate in an dense urban context may not be the same in other areas.
Critically it is important that groups continue to monitor and follow public health advice provided and take appropriate precautions, as the situation is changing rapidly. In Victoria, you can keep up to date via the 'Coronavirus COVID-19 daily update' from the Department of Health and Human Services - https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
Other good sources of information are:
Australian Government: https://www.health.gov.au/news/latest-information-about-novel-coronavirus ;
World Health Organisations resources: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
Western Pacific: https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/novel-coronavirus
As the situation is changing rapidly, it’s worth checking the cancellation fees & dates from booked venues, catering etc as public health advice may require changes at late notice, so it’s important to know your critical decision points in advance.
LVI Insurance & Risk Management
From an insurance perspective, if groups are following the public health advice, this acts as the best defence against any potential claims of negligence, even if claimants aren’t always reasonable. This means that groups need to be keep up- to-date with the changing public health advice while planning and conducting activities.
Ensuring steps followed to protect volunteers is well documented in the group’s risk management plans is also very important for this and all other risks. The recommended protective measures against COVID-19 can be found at the below links including a number of printable resources available to have to hand in office/event locations:
Mitigate panic by following the advice provided by credible sources. Have open discussions with concerned members & staff – everyone’s situation will be different.
Resources for Employment
The Landcare Employment Referral Service 1300 302 232 for advice on this and other matters.
Not-for-profit-law have also produced legal advice in relation to Employer Duties during a health crisis that may assist with staff discussions around absences, leave entitlements and ensuring a safe workplace https://www.nfplaw.org.au/covid-19-faqs
Grants & Landcare Activities
We have also been seeking advice from grant bodies regarding how our and our Member Groups’ legal and contractual obligations interact with COVID-19 measures such as the postponement or cancellation of planned events obligated by the terms of current grant agreements.
If you are concerned about an LVI sponsored grant and may need a contract variation please contact us ASAP. For other grants please contact the grant body to discuss any foreseeable issues as soon as you can. Please keep in mind they are currently developing their responses so advice may change.
Specific grant programs have given us the following contacts for information:
Fruit Fly Grants: Jane Ryan (Senior Project Officer Agriculture Victoria) T: 03 5784 6012 M: 0400 978 431; firstname.lastname@example.org
Communities Environment Grants: Get in touch with their Support Centre, link below. https://www.business.gov.au/Grants-and-Programs/Communities-Environment-Program
A number of LVI Member Groups, as well as Landcare Victoria Inc itself, are due to have AGMs in the next few months. We are seeking advice from Consumer Affairs Victoria about how these obligations interact with COVID-19 precautions.
We’ll communicate out further advice as it arrives. In the meantime, take care, stay safe and stay in touch.
Susi J Johnson
LVI Executive Officer