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CROWN INSTITUTE OF HIGHER EDUCATION RESPONSE TO COVID19

Thursday, 04 June 2020 11:07 Written by

 

Crown Institute of Higher Education (CIHE) has announced a 2.5 million-dollar
financial support package to assist CIHE students during this period of financial
hardship. This commitment to CIHE students recognises the impact of the
Coronavirus pandemic on the lives of all international students in Australia.
Chairman of the CIHE Board of Directors, Emeritus Professor John Gray said, “We
are doing this as part of our corporate social responsibility and our abiding
commitment to safeguard the wellbeing of our international students.”
CIHE’s principal shareholder Mr. Deepak Khadka said “We also hope that this
commitment provides reassurance to our students’ families that they are in caring
hands.”
The announced Relief and Recovery Financial Hardship Fund includes measures for
both personal and financial support.
CIHE has reduced fees dramatically by 17% for all currently enrolled students. To
provide for students who are in special need, CIHE will provide a cash gift of up to
$500. To access this gift, students need only apply, providing documentation that
substantiates their claims of hardship.
Fee payment terms have been made more friendly. Students can pay fortnightly or
even weekly and CIHE has waived the usual installment-administration and late-
payment fees. This will enable students to continue studying without needing to find
the whole semester’s fee up front.
Further reducing the need to find a large payment is the decision to allow students to
enroll in only three subjects in Semester 2, reducing by 25% their total fee
commitment though the worst period of the virus.
There is also a generous scholarship program, the Dean’s Award, for students who
can maintain steady progress, which provides a discount on fees of up to a further
15% on top of the other discounts, depending on the students’ track record of
achievement.

How tough is Facebook’s misinformation crackdown?

Thursday, 28 May 2020 17:50 Written by

 

Facebook reviewed and approved advertisements which targeted Australians with misinformation about coronavirus, as well as fake voting information.

Responsible Technology Australia, an advocacy group for the ethical progression of technology, designed an experiment to test Facebook’s claims it was cracking down on misinformation online.

The group set up a fake organisation's page, Ozzie News Network, and over a two-month period Facebook reviewed and approved a series of damaging fake news ads that RTA placed up including:
COVID-19 pandemic “advice” ads urging users to turn off their 5G, drink more water and get 30 minutes of daily sunshine
Saying the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement was just a front to allow mass migration from Jakarta
Telling 18 year olds not to bother to enrol to vote
Saying that the new 5G network will allow the Australian police to spy on you through your phone
Telling people the Australian Electoral Commission has assessed they live in a safe electorate and therefore shouldn’t bother voting
Images of fake ads can be found here.

The result? It could not be easier to post up misleading and fake news on Facebook and for it to remain there indefinitely.

"No traditional publisher or broadcaster would ever run ads like this," said Chris Cooper, executive director of Responsible Technology Australia. "But not only did Facebook review and approve them, even when we repeatedly reported them as misinformation they were never taken down.

"Our fake ads deliberately play on people's fears in ways we know are typical. This experiment proves just how easy it is to spread fake news on Facebook, and it would be easier still for an experienced malicious foreign actor. Currently there is little Australian authorities can do to fight this problem."

The ads were only taken down following media attention, despite the Facebook audience it was targeted at seeing the ads and reporting them as false.

To ensure the ads didn't unintentionally spread misinformation Responsible Technology Australia tightly targeted the ads at a group of users who had consented to being in the experiment.

Mr Cooper says the experiment shows not only how easy it is for bad actors to spread misinformation, but also the need for social media platforms to start acting in the public interest.

"Should it just be user beware? Should Australians accept that nothing online is true? We don’t think so. Facebook is what curates, amplifies and profits from this material. It should take responsibility too," Mr Cooper said.

"Our Communications Minister has had to publicly dismiss ludicrous conspiracy theories about 5G. We've even seen protests in Melbourne and Sydney. Social media is obviously playing a pivotal role in pushing these crackpot theories to a mass audience."

Responsible Technology Australia says social media platforms need to be transparent about the extent of misinformation online.

"We need Facebook to publish a live list of the most popular viral posts about COVID-19 and other hot button topics. We need transparency about the information, for everyone to see what’s getting shared out there.

"Our health authorities have limited insight into what kind of misinformation headwinds they are facing. We are all in our own little online filter bubbles, so none of us know the misinformation our aunt or neighbour might have being pushed upon them."

THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS RETURNING TO UPGRADED SCHOOLS ACROSS NSW

Monday, 25 May 2020 18:35 Written by

 


All NSW students will begin returning to classrooms today as the COVID-19 restrictions ease with thousands of students setting foot into upgraded schools.

Thousands of students will benefit from 14 major school upgrades that have opened already in Term 2, and one more to open soon. This represents a $280 million investment in children’s education.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell acknowledged it was an exciting day for students as they head back to school full-time.

“Thank you to teachers, principals and parents who have worked hard to support students during the pandemic. I am so pleased students will be returning to the classroom today,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Thousands of students across NSW will be returning to upgraded classrooms, performance studios, sports facilities, outdoor learning areas, halls and libraries.

“I am proud of the fact that even during our darkest days of the pandemic; the jackhammers have still been going in NSW. Projects are still being progressed and built, including schools. The 15 upgraded schools have kept 10,000 people in jobs right across NSW.”

Ms Mitchell said education is one of the keys to a successful life and she was happy to see every student returning to the classroom today.

“I’m sure the students will be thrilled to get back to the classroom and many are returning to new and upgraded schools today,” Ms Mitchell said.

“We are in the middle of delivering a four-year $6.7 billion investment into public education infrastructure and I am pleased that we have pushed ahead, despite the difficulties presented by COVID-19.”

The delivery of the upgraded schools comes on top of the NSW Government’s efforts to fast-track the assessment of new and upgraded schools and universities across NSW.

$15 MILLION TO TRANSFORM OUR STREETS AND PUBLIC SPACES FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING

Saturday, 09 May 2020 09:00 Written by
 
 
An extension of George Street’s car-free zone in Sydney’s CBD, a new pedestrian-only boulevard in Liverpool’s Railway Street and a ‘people’s loop’ in Parramatta Park have been given the green light today as part of a plan to transform streets into shared spaces in response to COVID-19. 
 
Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes today announced three trial pedestrianisation programs alongside a new $15 million Streets as Shared Spaces program that will fund council projects to provide more space for communities to safely walk, cycle and exercise. 
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the demand for more public spaces – and easy, safe access to it,” Mr Stokes said.
 
“Whether it’s new cycle lanes, pedestrian-only streets or wider footpaths, we’re committed to working with councils and communities to fund projects that can make life better for everyone – both now and once the pandemic is over.”
 
Councils will be able to apply for Streets as Shared Spaces program grants of up to $100,000 for immediate temporary projects, such as widening footpaths and cycle lanes and up to $1 million for medium-term pilot projects, such as extra crossing points, wider kerbs and trialling lower speed limits.
 
The community can also submit their ideas for local projects through an new online social pinpoint map that allows users to click on an area and leave their comments and ideas.
 
The three trial programs announced today include:
·        Eastern Harbour City: The NSW Government is partnering with the City of Sydney to extend George Street’s car-free zone in both directions between Bathurst and Campbell Streets and extended in the southbound direction to Rawson Place. The existing temporary closure in the southbound direction from Bathurst to Campbell Street will be made permanent.
·        Central River City: World Heritage-listed Parramatta Park’s People Loop Trial will see temporary changes made to vehicle access, parking and circulation for two-months from 19 May 2020, to improve the experience of walking and cycling in the Park.
·        Western Parkland City: The NSW Government is partnering with Liverpool City Council to install temporary street furniture and trees to slow vehicle traffic and pedestrianise the laneway behind Railway Street in the Liverpool City Centre. 
 
Transport for NSW has worked with the City of Sydney to continue to deliver on the benefits of the Light Rail to transform George Street into the civic spine of the CBD.
 
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said: “The George Street light rail has changed not just how people get around the city, but how they experience the city.
 
“With new street trees, planter boxes, outdoor dining, seating and pedestrianisation, people were already taking back and enjoying George Street before COVID-19 hit. When the crisis passes, it will once again be a place to linger and gather rather than just hurrying through,” Ms Moore said.
 
The Streets as Shared Spaces program will also help the NSW Government reach its ambitious target to increase the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes’ walk of quality green, open and public space by 10 per cent by 2023.
 
Councils can apply for Streets as Shared Spaces grants until 10 June 2020.

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2020 COMMUNITY BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS PROGRAM NOW OPEN

Wednesday, 06 May 2020 12:35 Written by
 
Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies today announced applications are now open for the 2020 Community Building Partnership Program, encouraging community infrastructure projects across NSW.
 
Tanya Daviessaid $300,000 is available for projects in each NSW electorate, including the Mulgoa electorate, and urged local councils and not-for-profit groups to apply for the funds they need to deliver projects with social, environmental and recreational outcomes.
 
“Local sports clubs, charities, schools and museums are just some of the groups that benefit from this program,” Tanya Davies said.
 
“If your organisation or club needs extra funding for infrastructure, such as playgrounds, accessible features, equipment or refurbishment, then I’d strongly encourage you to apply.”
 
The Community Building Partnership program has awarded more than $334 million in funding to 15,000 community projects since its beginning in 2009.
 
“This program means that you can support your community group to improve the places you meet, train or play,”Tanya Davies said.
 
“Take the time to prepare and submit your application so your community group doesn’t miss out on a share of $300,000.”
 
Applications are now open and close at 5pm, Friday 12 June 2020. Applicants must read the program guidelines to ensure their club or organisation and proposed project are eligible.
 
For more information about the NSW Government’s 2020 Community Building Partnership Program, visit: thewww.nsw.gov.au/cbp
 

UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS MEASURES

Wednesday, 06 May 2020 12:31 Written by

The National Cabinet met today to further discuss options for easing restrictions over the coming months, helping prepare Australians to go back to work in a COVID-19 safe environment and getting the economy back to a more sustainable level.

The Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy provided an update on the measures underway, the latest data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19. 

There have been 6,849 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 96 people have died. There are now only around 1,000 active cases in Australia, and over the past week, daily infection rates have remained low. 

We need to continue to have the right controls in place to test more people, trace those who test positive and respond to local outbreaks when they occur. These are precedent conditions to enable Australia to relax baseline restrictions and enable Australians to live and work in a COVID-19 safe economy. 

National Cabinet encouraged Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to ensure that we can protect Australians and reset baseline restrictions. Nearly 5 million Australians have already downloaded the COVIDSafe app. This is an enormous achievement, but more is needed. 

National Cabinet welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for a part of today’s meeting to discuss our countries’ approaches to combating the virus. We agreed to start work on a trans-Tasman COVID-19 safe travel zone, easing travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand. This arrangement would be put in place once it is safe to do so, with necessary health, transport and other protocols to protect public health. Any arrangement would need to factor in state and territory movement restrictions. A travel zone would assist both countries’ economic recovery, help kick-start our tourism and transport sectors, enhance existing sporting links, and reunite families and friends.

National Cabinet agreed to meet again on Friday 8 May 2020.

 

Establishing a COVID-19 Safe Australia - returning to work safely and confidently

The Chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, Mr Neville Power, briefed National Cabinet on the importance of a proactive and consistent approach to supporting businesses and workers to safely return to work - drawing on the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles that had been agreed by National Cabinet on 24 April 2020.

National Cabinet agreed that Safework Australia would be the single source of information, which will allow businesses to plan with confidence and consistency. A toolkit is being developed for businesses to use, to help them be work ready in a COVID-19 safe environment. National Cabinet encouraged businesses to be prepared for reopening, to protect their workers and protect their business.

 

Establishing a COVID-19 Safe Australia - removing baseline restrictions

National Cabinet agreed to establish a three step framework to gradually remove baseline restrictions to enable Australians to live in a COVID-19 safe economy. Details will be determined by National Cabinet on Friday 8 May 2020.

Individual states and territories will determine the timeframe for graduating between steps and individual restrictions to remove. This reflects the fact that states and territories are at different stages of the pandemic response, with 6 of 8 states and territories now recording multiple zero case days.

National Cabinet noted that the Northern Territory has announced that by 5 June 2020, it will be able to remove many restrictions, while maintaining social distancing, hygiene and travel restrictions.

It is National Cabinet’s aim to have a sustainable COVID-19 safe economy in July 2020. This will be subject to strong epidemiology results, testing, tracing and local surge health response capacity. National Cabinet noted that some health measures will need to be in place for a considerable period of time including social distancing, strong hygiene and international travel restrictions. Some jurisdictions may choose to maintain interstate travel restrictions.

 

Justice sector Preparedness

National Cabinet discussed the importance of making sure there is access to legal support for those Australians who need it during this time.

That’s why the Australian Government will provide an additional $63.3 million for the legal assistance sector:

·      $49.8 million for additional frontline legal services, such as legal advice or representation, and with 40 per cent to be used for matters involving domestic violence; and

·      $13.5 million for IT costs to support the sector’s transition to delivering assistance virtually and online

National Cabinet agreed that it is important to quickly finalise agreement of the National Legal Assistance Partnership to ensure continuity for services, such as Community Legal Centres. Under that Partnership agreement, the Australian Government will provide more than $2 billion over the next five years to help Australians with legal issues.

Given the importance of protecting victims of domestic violence, there was also a commitment from all Premiers and Chief Ministers that domestic violence orders will continue to be available and enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 
Managing COVID-19 in corrections facilities 

National Cabinet agreed that jurisdictions will plan for and manage COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Network Australia National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Correctional and Detention Facilities in Australia.

National Cabinet agreed that supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to corrections facilities should be considered a priority in the context of the national supply of PPE, as additional supplies become available and if COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the sector.  

The Australian Government will, in partnership with jurisdictions, develop ‘Safe Travel Plans’ for newly released Indigenous prisoners including access to self-isolation accommodation and secure transport to designated communities.

Applications open for COVID-19 rent relief grant

Wednesday, 06 May 2020 12:28 Written by

More than 18,000 people have wanted to know how WA’s new rent relief scheme works, with hundreds having started their application, hoping for a grant covering four weeks’ rent up to $2,000.

The State Government’s $30 million Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme will assist renters who are out of work and struggling to pay their rent after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the conditions to qualify for the grant is that applicants must have an agreement in writing to pay a reduced rent to the landlord, or have engaged in Consumer Protection’s conciliation service in order to reach an agreement.

Grants equivalent to four weeks’ rent to a maximum of $2,000 will be paid directly to landlords, even though renters submit the application. However, the renter must receive the benefit of the grant through paying a reduced rent.

The scheme complements the introduction of new COVID-19 emergency tenancy laws which placed a six-month moratorium on evictions and rent increases.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said renters wishing to apply who do not have a revised rent agreement in place can reach out for assistance.

“Don’t feel pressured to sign paperwork provided by your landlord if you are not comfortable. Consumer Protection is here to help and we can assist to negotiate an arrangement that both you and your landlord are happy with and advise you on eligibility for the grant,” Ms Chopping said.

“The online application form is open until 29 September 2020, however the total grant funding of $30 million, depending on demand, may be claimed prior to this date.”

Renters can get further details and apply for the grant online atwww.dmirs.wa.gov.au/covidrentgrant.  It is recommended that applications be made using a PC or laptop as supporting documents need to be uploaded as part of the application.

NEARLY $10 MILLION IN ENHANCEMENTS FOR ePLANNING

Wednesday, 06 May 2020 12:27 Written by

 


Real-time tracking and faster processing of local development applications is a step closer, thanks to nearly $10 million in funding from the NSW Government.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the NSW Government is investing $9.7 million to enhance its ePlanning platform and ensure all councils can get online from 1 July 2020 onwards.

“ePlanning is an online platform that allows homeowners and businesses to lodge their development applications online and track them in real-time,” Mr Dominello said.

“We already have 37 councils successfully using the platform to process development applications (DAs) and this funding will deliver important upgrades to enhance and ensure the system can keep up with the increase in demand once all 128 councils are on board by July next year.”

The funding will deliver essential upgrades to the platform, including:
· expanding the digital services to improve integration between councils, state agencies and the Department;
· developing and implementing a service to allow applicants to lodge planning proposals in addition to DAs and process payments online;
· allowing the Land and Environment Court access to the system to assess and determine applications before the court;
· providing guidance, training and technical support to councils to get them on the system;
· developing comprehensive reporting and analytics to track progress; and
· upgrading the system to support increased demand.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said ePlanning will play an important role in helping councils keep the economy moving and construction workers in jobs during COVID-19.

“ePlanning is already helping councils slash processing times by up to 50 per cent and its roll out will help new projects get through the system faster,” Mr Stokes said.

“This investment shows the Government is serious about encouraging investment in NSW.”

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said ePlanning is a great tool for councils and the community.

“Homeowners can lodge applications safely from home, neighbours can see in real-time what development is proposed in their areas and councils will have up-to-date data to plan, track and improve their assessment processes,” Mrs Hancock said.

On 1 July 2020 all Councils across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Illawarra will be required to start accepting and processing DAs, complying development certificates and post-consent certificates via the NSW Planning Portal.

It will be mandatory for all greater metropolitan councils to process all applications via ePlanning by the end of 2020.

The remaining councils must process all applications through the NSW Planning Portal by 1 July 2021.

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