Covid 19 Response

Physical distance, social solidarity word shift and guarantees for home, hearth and work.  Today 70 leaders representing the state’s largest religious and community organisations, social service groups and unions met and called for the following...

Sydney Alliance Covid-19 Response:

Physical distance, social solidarity and guarantees for home, hearth and work  

Today 70 leaders representing the state’s largest religious and community organisations, social service groups and unions met and called for the following:

  1. What’s in a name? Turns out a lot.

    We are asking that organisations, media and governments replace the term ‘social distancing’ with ‘physical distancing’ and social connection. To convey the need for physical space but ongoing social connections.


The Sydney Alliance, a coalition of hundreds of organisations across NSW, has indicated it no longer intends to use the term “social distancing” in relation to the COVID-19 response and will instead use the phrase “physical distancing with social connection” in all of their communications. The Government and media are strongly urged to follow suit.


Physical distancing is the correct term to describe what we need people to do to contain the spread of the virus. But social connection, through phone and online, must be maintained to protect people’s mental health and to maintain our connections as communities,” said Mary Waterford, Chair of the Sydney Alliance.


Sydney Alliance partners include 600 Uniting Church congregations, The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and Parramatta, Muslim and Jewish peaks, Uniting the state’s largest Aged Care provider, Settlement Services International, the largest settlement service in the country and two of the largest unions in NSW, the SDA Union and United Workers Union.


Some organisations have already recognised the importance of this distinction. Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s (Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney) recent pastoral letter stated “Even if physical distancing is sometimes desirable, ‘social distancing’ is never so. We all need human company.”


  1. Home Guarantee
  • Stop all evictions during the health crisis, not just evictions for rental arrears.
  • Cover all renters, including social housing, boarders and lodgers.
  • Deter unlawful threats of evictions.
  • Implement health and safety measures for renters in shared accommodation, including boarders and lodgers.
  • Consider how we prevent an unmanageable debt crisis caused by rent arrears
  1. Energy Guarantee

Echoing the calls by NCOSS and Vinnies NSW:

There are three things companies should do as a matter of urgency to provide relief for their customers:

  • No disconnections. Companies should continue to offer their services without interruption, including energy, telecommunications, banking and insurance.
  • Pause debt collection and legal/bankruptcy proceedings. People shouldn’t be evicted or be hassled by debt collectors during this time. Lenders should consider moratoriums on loan repayments.
  • Waive penalty and late fees, including additional interest charges. No one should pay extra if they’re struggling to pay bills on time.
  1. Work Guarantee

Guaranteed leave and financial support for all workers. The Alliance is concerned for the 1.4 million visa workers and thousands of undocumented workers with no access to any social safety net. 


More on Physical Distancing and social connection

Social connection not isolation will be critical to the mental health of millions of Australians in the months to come.’ Said Sydney Alliance spokesperson Professor Kurt Iveson representing the National Tertiary Education Union.

‘Until recently, “social distancing” was a term used by social scientists to describe the practices used to ensure social disconnection in a context of physical proximity’ he said.


‘Used in its original sense, the last thing we need in a pandemic is more “social distancing”. We do need physical distancing. But we need social solidarity and connection. Without that social solidarity and connection, people are atomised and left to fend for themselves. And we know exactly who will suffer the most if that is allowed to occur.’ He said.


This language matters. We can already see a form of “social distancing” in action in our supermarkets – and it’s not good! People are socially distancing themselves from other shoppers in the aisle, from the staff trying to stock the shelves and operate the checkouts’ he said.


Sydney Alliance partners also committed to build a local backbone of community connection throughout Sydney’s neighbourhoods by connecting existing organisations together. ‘We know from Fukishima, Haiti, New Orleans and the Bushfires – that in a crisis, it is relationships that matter, and a key element of disaster response and recovery is coordination” said David Barrow, Lead Organiser, Sydney Alliance.


Further Comment:

David Barrow
Lead Organiser
Sydney Alliance

M: 0416028001

Audio talent includes: Mary Waterford AM, Chair of the Sydney Alliance; Prof Kurt Iveson Sydney Alliance Spokesperson or by arrangement reps from any of the Alliance partners.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.