Victorian Chamber announces COVIDSafe Business Award winners

08 February 2022

The Victorian Chamber, in partnership with the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), is proud to today announce the winners of the inaugural Victorian COVIDSafe Business Awards.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives in some way over the past two years. Victoria’s business and community groups have faced immense challenges during this time, forced to pivot their operations to remain open, with health and safety front of mind.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen examples of exemplary care and leadership from individuals and businesses who went above and beyond to ensure they were continuously protecting their staff, clients and the wider community.

It was these examples of excellence that inspired the Chamber and DJPR to celebrate those efforts through the creation of the COVIDSafe Business Awards.

With finalists announced last year, a judging panel of industry leaders across the business and community sectors, chaired by Paul Guerra, Chief Executive of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, selected the winners for their merit in three categories – Innovation, Champion and Community. The winners are as follows:  

Community Award winners - Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute

The Community Award recognises businesses that demonstrated and encouraged excellent COVIDSafe practices among or for their customers or the community. It was jointly won by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) and Bendigo TAFE/Kangan Institute after the judges were unable to separate both efforts.

The ASRC, catering to some of the most vulnerable in our community, had to pivot to protect these groups, with judges congratulating the organisation for “educat[ing] and protect[ing] asylum seekers on many COVID-19 issues to keep operating a vital service.”

Some of ASRC’s initiatives included pivoting to a delivery model for their foodbank to limit the number of people onsite, employing bilingual cultural diversity workers and COVID Safety Officers to assist members and help in the vaccination hub,​ and changing heating and cooling systems and installed windows in areas with poor ventilation.​

The centre tackled challenges of varied levels of understanding of safety measures required among members and was able to connect through bilingual cultural diversity workers who had lived experience of COVID-19. ​

Joint winner, Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute, advocated for vaccinations across the community by adapting its marketing campaign from ‘Heroes’ to ‘Heroes Get Vaxxed.’ For apprehensive students and staff, the Institute partnered with health bodies on debunking the myths associated with vaccinations.

The Institute also actively promoted all COVID-related events organised by the Hume City Council to all staff and students and commissioned a comprehensive risk assessment by an external provider as an additional control to ensure COVIDSafe practices were well above industry-standard.​

​Raising awareness of COVID-19 vaccination and its importance was instrumental in helping the institute to return to a COVID Normal work and study environment, with many staff members and students willing to get involved and help promote COVIDSafe practices.

The judges noted “the importance and impact this marketed vaccine promotion had on diverse students and community. They believed it was a strong application which demonstrated community buy-in through harnessing the power of social media and encouraging a community response to a large-scale problem.”

Innovation Award winner - Ryman Healthcare

The Innovation Award recognises businesses who have excelled at implementing new or innovated COVIDSafe practices, procedures or ideas.

Ryman Healthcare, a retirement village organisation in Melbourne, was chosen by judges for its “fabulous response that was ahead of the curve in preparedness.”

Ryman responded to COVID-19 by moving high-risk staff into their villages, developing its own digital contact tracing tool and introduced rapid antigen testing for staff and visitors – the first aged care provider in Australia to do so.

It also created its own COVID-Go-Kit so the entire team and external staff could understand and action emergency response plans following a confirmed case. ​

​Ryman Healthcare has used its expertise to share this knowledge and experience with colleagues in the industry.

“There was a clear level of care, compassion and selflessness in the actions taken and their efforts and commitment helped save lives,” the judges added.

Champion Award winner – Jillian Christie (Monkami)

The Champion Award recognises outstanding compliance or commitment by an individual within a business to being COVIDSafe.

Monkami is a charity providing support services for people experiencing disability. Its CEO, Jillian Christie, worked above and beyond to secure the future of Monkami, often unguided during the global pandemic.

Through observing media reports early in 2020, Jillian commenced business continuity planning, introducing stringent infection control measures, providing ongoing workplace training, additional psychological support mechanisms for staff and adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional infectious waste disposal units. Monkami also produced custom-made Monkami N95 masks for all residents and staff.​

Jillian additionally made the decision to close one accommodation site during the pandemic, converting it to a treatment site in the event of a suspected and/or confirmed case of COVID-19.​ Monkami has not had one positive case and no need to utilise the treatment site.

​Monkami implemented the vaccination process early and has had 100 per cent staff and resident vaccination rates since July 2021, without the need for this to have been a mandatory requirement.

The judges “commended Jillian’s strong application and noted Monkami were able to not only predict the crisis but showed true passion and leadership to attack the issues.”

Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Paul Guerra said it was fabulous to have the opportunity to recognise these deserving winners for their innovative and outstanding work in implementing and upholding COVIDSafe procedures and practices that have assisted in keeping staff, customers, contractors and the community safe from COVID-19.

“The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is proud to elevate and promote these businesses and individuals in the first awards program of its kind,” Mr Guerra said.

“It is thanks to all organisations and individuals like these and the other finalists that our COVID-19 recovery continues, and we are able to keep the economy moving forward as we continue to battle this virus.

“Congratulations to each of the winners – and thank you.”

The winners were also praised by the Victorian Minister for Employment; Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy; Minister for Small Business; and Minister for Resources Jaala Pulford.

“These Victorian businesses and individuals should be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved,” Ms Pulford said.

“The pandemic has presented countless challenges to our business owners and operators and the way businesses have responded and continue to respond is inspiring.

“The commitment our business community has made to keeping their staff and customers safe is significant - it has spared people from ill health, and it has saved lives.

“These are just a few examples of the incredible resilience and innovation we have witnessed across our business community over the past two years.

“I am sure there are others who have demonstrated similar achievements and on behalf of the Victorian Government, I would like to sincerely thank them.”

More coverage of the COVIDSafe Business Award, including profiles of the winners, can be found here.

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