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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Renewing and rebuilding social connection – and Ending Loneliness Together

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International experts and local interested parties have gathered in Parliament House with a message for all Australians: it’s time to renew connection and rebuild relationships.

Ending Loneliness Together is launching their second White Paper which focuses on social connection to accelerate social recovery.

Loneliness and social isolation have had a significant impact on people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

New research from Ending Loneliness Together shows that the health, social and economic consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come and that we need to act now to accelerate social recovery.

It is clear there is no quick fix or simple solution that can resolve loneliness because Australians are so diverse. But we can start somewhere – we can unite and work across all sectors, taking on a comprehensive approach to resolving this critical issue.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles

The group proposes four simple actions that the Federal Government can take to accelerate social recovery as we move towards a different phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • To build a strategic framework to promote meaningful social connection
  • To strengthen our workforce capacity across all sectors to address loneliness
  • To empower our community to help each other
  • To invest in Australian-based scientific research in order to rapidly translate what works into practice and policy

The White Paper was being launched in Parliament House on August 4 by Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles, who has been passionate about addressing the issue of chronic loneliness for many years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the loneliness that was experienced by many Australians,” he said.

“It is clear there is no quick fix or simple solution that can resolve loneliness because Australians are so diverse.

“But we can start somewhere – we can unite and work across all sectors, taking on a comprehensive approach to resolving this critical issue.

Giles is joined by co-chair Bridget Archer MP, a passionate advocate for community connection.

“Loneliness is a very misunderstood state – it can be silent but distressing, and worringly not obvious to others,” Archer said.

“So effective action requires us to have consensus understanding of what it is, how to resolve it, and how to effectively help others who are at risk of distressing or persistent loneliness.

“We can take a preventative approach by addressing it early before it leads to poorer physical and mental health.

“This can in turn reduce the burden on our health, community, and business sectors.”

Loneliness is a very misunderstood state – it can be silent but distressing, and worringly not obvious to others. We can take a preventative approach by addressing it early before it leads to poorer physical and mental health. This can in turn reduce the burden on our health, community, and business sectors.

Federal Liberal MP, Bridget Archer

The launch is the second event being hosted by the Parliamentary Friends of Ending Loneliness and will also be addressed by Dr Vivek Murthy, the current US Surgeon General, and Dr Etienne Krug, the director of the Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organization.

“Loneliness and social isolation became an issue that almost everyone experienced during the pandemic, so much so that there has been increased focus on the issue across the globe,” Dr Michelle Lim, Australia’s leading scientific expert on loneliness, said.

“Both loneliness and social isolation lead to poorer health, social, and economic outcomes for society. There is no better time to consider what we can do in Australia to recover socially and to rebuild stronger communities”

Lim said the health, social, and economic consequences of COVID-19 pandemic will be seen for many years to come.

“To accelerate our recovery, we have to rebuild and reconnect with our friends, family, colleagues, and our community,” she said.

Based on the estimated economic costs of loneliness, we cannot afford ignore the issue and hope it goes away. Global action is underway, and Australia will be left behind if it does not have a clear strategy forward.

Advisory chair, Professor John Pollaers OAM

“We also need to ensure we are supported in building new relationships and maintaining them.

“This will ensure that we thrive and flourish – and not just survive.”

Professor John Pollaers OAM, the Advisory chair, who led a national leaders roundtable at the National Press Club earlier this year, said loneliness affects all sectors – from business to community.

“Based on the estimated economic costs of loneliness, we cannot afford ignore the issue and hope it goes away,” he said.

“Global action is underway, and Australia will be left behind if it does not have a clear strategy forward.”

Join the movement to combat loneliness together in Australia.

Click here for ways to get involved, including through making a donation, becoming a member, or through partnering with Ending Loneliness Together and join in a coordinated national response.

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