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About the People's Inquiry into the Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Why a People's Inquiry?

The Covid-19 Pandemic was a unique, disruptive and at times catastrophic experience for our community. Three years since the start of the pandemic, we have still not come to terms personally and collectively with its impact on our lives and our society.

Inspired by the Covid Truths - The People’s Commission and Public Inquiry Committees project, run by social movement organisations in India, this project will involve holding several Pandemic Public Hearings in locations across greater Melbourne and potentially regional Victoria.  

The inquiry will be an opportunity for all members of the public to come forward with their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. They will be able to speak to the impacts on all aspects of their lives: work, health, education, economic, familial, social and psychological. It may provide opportunities for people to be heard by organisations, government and the media. It will also be an opportunity for the community to collectively process the difficult and life changing experiences of the pandemic.

A federal government inquiry has recently been established into the Morrison Government's handling of the Pandemic. While this official inquiry is welcome, it has already been criticised for its narrow terms of reference, which fail to take into account the role of state government responses, and the huge social and human rights impacts of the state response.

The People's Inquiry endeavors to capture all experiences and is not limited by a politically defined terms of reference.  It will also be a mechanism for the community to hold governments and government inquiry's accountable.

But more than that, the inquiry is an opportunity for us be heard, and to hear from others in the community about what they experienced.  Once hearings are held, the community will also be given an opportunity to synthesise what came out of the hearing and decide what kind of community action we might want to take in response.

A model for how we deal with disasters in the future

We hope the People's Inquiry into the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic will create a model for how we can process major catastrophic events as a community, to understand how they have changed us and learn lessons for the future.

We know that in a time of rapidly escalating climate change impacts, major events (fires, floods, heatwaves, destructive storms and so on) will continue to impact on our communities. We hope that these hearings will provide useful insights into how communities can support each other during and after times of crisis.

How will it work? 

Public Hearings -  The first pilot Public Hearing for the Inquiry will be held on Saturday October 21, for members of the Darebin community. RSVP here to register your interest.

The event won’t be a ‘town hall’ style forum. Instead there will be groups of 10-12 chairs with a facilitator to guide discussions and document what they hear from participants. Those documented discussions will then be synthesised in a report and there will be an opportunity for community members to return to make sense of what came out of the process and work out if there is anything they want to work on as a community or advocate for in the wake of the discussion.

Submissions - Many people may not be able to attend the event because of other commitments, or even concern over transmission of Covid-19.  For those who cannot attend in-person Public Hearings, members of the public will be able to submit their own experiences, including photos, documents or creative responses via our 'Send Us Cases' page on the inquiry website.

What will be recorded?

We are interested in everybody's experience, and all aspects of our experience. We know that the pandemic impacted our families, our physical and mental health, the ways we work our businesses and our relationships.  Some of these impacts were traumatic, others were hopeful.

We aim to record everything we hear in the listening circles of Public Hearings. We will also capture creative responses on the day.

Our 'Send Us Cases' portal on the inquiry website will allow members of the community to submit their own experiences, including text, photos, documents or creative responses.

What will we do with what we find?

After a Public Hearing, the community will be invited back to an event where we look at what we heard on the day and see what kind of community action we may want to take in response.

The outcomes of the Public Hearings and Send Us Cases portal will be synthesised into a report to be made available on our Library page.

Who is running the Inquiry?

The Inquiry has primarily been organised by a small volunteer collective of Friends of the Earth Melbourne, in collaboration with many local community organisations.  We hope to expand to become a coalition of community groups making up an 'Inquiry Committee' in order to hold public hearings across Melbourne and Victoria.

Please get in touch with us via our Collaborate page if you would like to volunteer, collaborate on this project as an individual or organisation or even hold a Public Hearing in your area.