Australia’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic was effective and relatively well-managed compared to similar countries during this worldwide pandemic.
Members of the NSW Department of Communities and Justice effectively responded to the challenges and increased demand for services imposed by COVID-19, despite being already stretched to capacity due to existing demographic, organisational and system shortfalls.
While being able to maintain frontline contact, members felt fearful for themselves, their families, and their social connections when confronting the additional risks and demands. Amongst members, rates of depression and anxiety were higher than amongst the general population. The study also found high levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation among members, along with some loss of personal accomplishment. These findings are consistent with the evidence that members felt they were over-worked even before the pandemic, and more so when demands on their capacity grew in terms of work intensity and risk to themselves and their families.
Poor communication between the leadership of organisations and frontline workers was reported as one of the key challenges, with many senior managers and supervisors battling to effectively stay in touch with frontline staff who needed up-to-date and accurate information as well as ongoing support. Members were seeking clear communication and direction, empathy and understanding from their managers and leaders, with clear practical guidelines.
When the pandemic ends, Communities and Justice members will require ongoing mental health and education support from the Department, educational institutions and professional bodies. In the future, organisational leaders need to plan and implement effective workforce wellbeing strategies to prevent the major sources of distress such as overwork and the absence of practical support.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBathurst, NSW
PublisherCharles Sturt University
Commissioning bodyNSW Public Service Association
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jun 2022


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