The past few months have tested us all—tested our resilience and our connectedness like never before. Many people have lost work and faced financial hardship; small businesses have been pushed to the wall; parents have struggled to balance the competing pressures of work, home life and home learning; and, of course, many people have contracted COVID-19 and some have lost loved ones. Things have been especially difficult for residents in Ashbury, a suburb in my electorate that sits within the Canterbury-Bankstown local government area and was therefore subject to harsher health restrictions, including the curfew. For everyone across the inner west, one of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic has been its power to keep us apart. We know that the strain on people's wellbeing and mental health has been immense—this has been a challenging period in our history but one in which our very best nature has shone through, none more so than in our extraordinary essential workers.

Heroes on our front lines have put their lives and the health and wellbeing of their families on the line to keep our communities safe. We owe deep gratitude to doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital cleaners, contact tracers, vaccination nurses, workers conducting COVID-19 tests and the many thousands of administrative staff who have supported our health system during this outbreak. We also owe our thanks to essential workers in transport and freight, emergency services, pharmacies and, of course, all those workers in the food and beverage supply chains, including people working in supermarkets. Teachers worked around the clock to ensure our kids kept on track, running Zoom classes, preparing worksheets and regularly checking in on every child's learning, often while juggling their own demands at home. As the outbreak worsened, all those heroes kept showing up to work, no matter the risk, to ensure people had access to the most basic of fundamental goods and services. They put the needs of the community ahead of their own. Each and every one of them, I believe, is a hero.

Local community groups have helped hold our community together. I cannot name them all here today, but I especially want to acknowledge some of the local organisations that have been supporting the inner west community during the outbreak. I thank all those organisations that have been working to address food insecurity, including the Addison Road Community Centre, Connect Marrickville, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and the Bill Crews' Exodus Foundation. The Addison Road Community Centre has been feeding up to 8,000 people a week across the inner west and in designated local government areas of concern. Local businesses and supermarkets have donated food, which was then boxed up by volunteers and distributed by organisations to the people and families that need it most. I thank all those organisations that have been working to increase rates of vaccination locally and ensuring that relevant health and vaccine information is available to culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and also those who worked to directly provide vaccines.

The Exodus Foundation teamed up with Aspen Medical to provide pop-up vaccine clinics across the inner west, including at Marrickville West Public School. Organisations like Metro Assist and Cultural Community Connections worked to ensure that vaccine information was available in multiple languages. They hosted online information sessions with community leaders to help get out vaccine information and reduce vaccine hesitancy across the community. I note also that the Gender Centre recently hosted a vaccine clinic for trans and gender diverse members of the community, and that ACON hosted a fabulous Super Saturday vaccination drive for members of the LGBTQ community at Qudos Bank Arena.

We know young people have been hit especially hard by the lockdown, with home learning keeping kids away from their friends and social networks. Organisations like Connect Marrickville have been instrumental in making sure that no kid falls through the cracks. They have provided critical support with food and housing security, hosted online playgroups and story times and run programs to support parents. Headspace in Ashfield has run regular sessions to support young people with their mental health. I acknowledge the work of the Marrickville Legal Centre, which has worked tirelessly to support people who were issued with penalty notices. I also acknowledge the Inner West Tenancy Advocacy Service, which helps those navigating issues around the eviction moratorium. I thank the local chambers of commerce, including AshBiz. Lots of small businesses have been devastated by the outbreak and those local groups have helped make sure they can access crisis payments. Those that have made it through are now facing many challenges, with the evolving health orders and with making sure they are looking after their staff and opening their doors. It is clear that making it through the pandemic has been a collective effort. Our community has looked out for one another and I am certain we are stronger and more resilient because of it.