Speech: Go Local First

Speech: Go Local First Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (11:01): It's very true that this year has been like no other. The trials we have experienced over the last year have taught us many things, but one of the most fantastic things to come out of it is our community spirit and our resolve to support each other. COVID-19 has impacted on local industry, local businesses and local jobs like never before. But, in my electorate on the New South Wales South Coast, our industry had already suffered multiple hits, even before the pandemic had hit our shores.

Our local economy is structured around the tourism industry. Many local businesses do a year's worth of trade over the summer, taking full advantage of the many people who come to our towns and villages to enjoy our beautiful beaches, our beautiful food and wine, and our beautiful people. Shops employ extra workers, many of whom are young people needing that summer income to get them through the rest of the year. But last year we didn't have a summer—we didn't get our summer trade; we didn't have our summer boost—because last summer much of the South Coast was on fire. We had to turn tourists away, declaring a no-go zone in the Shoalhaven and the Eurobodalla, with knock-on impacts in areas like Kiama. It was tough times, and businesses suffered immensely. So I like to think that the South Coast had a little something to do with the start of GO LOCAL FIRST campaign. We were, after all, the ones who needed it first.

Immediately after the bushfires, one of the first campaigns to start was Love the Bay BB, encouraging people to come back to Bateman's Bay. There was Rejuvenate in the Shoalhaven, Holiday Here This Year, Spend Here This Year, and Empty Esky. Kiama and District Business Chamber started the Buy Local Campaign on 1 July, with the slogan 'Think, Shop & Buy Local'. They had prizes and incentives for businesses and patrons alike to join in. Councils, business chambers, tourism bodies, local media outlets and the local businesses themselves came together to encourage people to spend local, buy local and support local businesses to get back on their feet.

Even the local newspaper got involved, with the Bay Post Moruya Examiner running a Think Local, Support Local feature in July and August. This feature showcased local businesses, gave them the chance to tell their story, from the bushfires to the floods and COVID, and encouraged everyone to think about supporting local businesses first. It was wonderful. In those weeks and months immediately after the bushfires, I visited hundreds of local businesses, trying to do my bit to 'spend here this year', buying local produce and showing my support for businesses doing it tough. It was wonderful to see people from near and far just coming into our towns to buy something and show their support. It was giving businesses the lift they needed, a bit of encouragement to just keep going, even when everything felt so tough.

During the bushfires, it was local businesses that were there for us, taking people in and making sure displaced people had food and shelter. Now was our turn to say thanks and give back. I did the same again when restrictions began to ease following the coronavirus outbreak, popping in to see how people were doing. The local butcher in Gainsborough told me how his business had been booming; people had started shopping in their local butchery again. The local fudge shop in Mogo told me that people had come from Sydney and Wollongong just to buy something in their store and show their support. I heard so many fantastic stories.

Supporting local businesses means supporting local jobs and making sure the South Coast remains the most beautiful place to live, work and visit. I am proud to be part of this amazing community. I am proud to have supported all of our various 'shop local' efforts. It has been humbling and awe-inspiring to be part of a community so committed to helping each other. We have been through so much, but we have made it through because we are strongest when we stand together. We are by no means out of the woods. Many of the activities, festivals and celebrations we had planned, to get our community back on its feet, have sadly had to be cancelled because of COVID restrictions. Luckily, many of our local markets have now started up again, giving local growers, producers and sellers a chance to showcase their wares. The time to think local and shop local is still now. Support local businesses, support local jobs and shop local today.