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Incredible highs and a heartbreaking low: a reflection on the past month

CEO of Good Things Foundation, Jessica Wilson, recalls Get Online Week 2023, the Voice Referendum result and a welcome announcement on Be Connected refunding.

In the lead up to the Voice Referendum, Good Things Foundation proudly declared our support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition in the constitution and a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.  

It was devastating to learn that the result was no. We acknowledge the grief and sadness felt by many First Nations people post-referendum and for some, the need to rethink the approach to reconciliation. Despite the outcome, we remain committed to taking action towards recognition, justice, sovereignty and peace for First Nations people across the country.

First Nations people are among the most digitally excluded people in our society due to a lack of affordable access to technology and the digital skills needed to fully participate in our digital world. 

Earlier this week, the Albanese Government released the initial report of the First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group (FNDIAG), outlining the steps towards narrowing the digital divide for First Nations Australians. 

We fully support the recommendations that suggest practical measures to promote greater digital inclusion in line with Target 17 in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. In particular, we were pleased that the recommendations focused on the need for First Nations people to receive digital skills support from digital mentors in the local community. 

With a renewed commitment, we will continue to strive towards closing the gap and will work with, and take our lead from, First Nation-led organisations to ensure that digital inclusion support for First Nations people and communities continues to be a priority.

Most successful Get Online Week ever

One of the many effective campaign tools that we’ve utilised to empower diverse communities across Australia with digital skills has been Get Online Week.  And this year’s national digital inclusion campaign, Get Online Week 2023, was the most of the most successful ever.

Not only did community organisations across the country hold an impressive number of Get Online Week events, but in 2023, we received more media coverage, government interest and sponsorship support than ever before. 

Seniors and students from Carlton South Public School attend an intergenerational Get Online Week 2023 event at Kogarah Community Services in Sydney’s south.

During Get Online Week 2023 (16 to 22 October), more than 800 community events offering digital skills support were held in local towns, capital cities and regional locations in every state and territory. 

The whole Good Things Foundation team and some of our funders from Telstra, Department of Social Services and Bendigo Bank, got out and about to events across the country to experience Get Online Week as it happened. As always, it was incredibly inspiring for us all to witness the work our community partners do everyday to build people’s digital skills and confidence. The joy on people’s faces as they learned new skills – skills that will help them to connect with friends and family, use translation tools, tell their life history and even join in on karaoke sessions – reminds us why we do what we do. We remain so grateful to everyone who supported, ran events or just participated in Get Online Week this year. 

CEO of Good Things Foundation, Jess Wilson and acting CEO of Kogarah Community Services, acting CEO Marisa Turcinskis, get involved in a Get Online Week event.

Throughout October, Get Online Week and Good Things Foundation also achieved ground-breaking local, regional and national coverage across radio, digital, print and television. Why does that matter? Greater event and media reach means that more Australians at risk of digital exclusion will have received information about the digital skills support available in their community. 

Media coverage of Get Online Week featured case studies of people who overcame various barriers to get online and support their community. Thank you to all of the interviewees who shared their personal stories with the media and nation. Their stories helped the country to learn about real-life examples of digital change. They also acted as a reminder that fear or a lack of confidence can be overcome with the right kind of digital support.

New research and a ministerial announcement

This year, to coincide with Get Online Week, we also released the results of new consumer research. Our survey of 2,000 people revealed that many Australians were feeling overwhelmed due to constant changes in technology and the increasing costs associated with getting online.

The survey also found that two-thirds of Australians weren’t confident in their ability to stay up-to-date with changes in technology. Meanwhile, one in three Australians either felt overwhelmed with the constant changes in technology or were unable to keep up. These survey results demonstrated the national need for greater digital skills support and continued digital inclusion funding.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth (middle left) and CEO of Good Things Foundation Jessica Wilson (middle right) with a senior at a Get Online Week event.

Then, on the last weekday of Get Online Week, Minister for Social Services, the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP announced that Be Connected funding will be continued for another four years!!!!

The Minister told attendees at a Get Online Week event in Canberra that the Australian government will provide $42 million to extend Be Connected – the national program that provides essential digital skills support for over 50s – until at least 2028. What better time to receive this news than during Get Online Week!

The program’s extension will enable hundreds of thousands more Australians to build their skills and confidence and improve their lives. 

We are absolutely thrilled that the work Good Things, our community partners and our colleagues at DSS and eSafety have done over the last six years and the continued need for this program has been recognised by the Albanese Government. The program’s extension will enable hundreds of thousands more Australians to build their skills and confidence and improve their lives. 

We would like to thank our Principal Supporting Partner, Telstra, and the Department of Social Services who helped to make Get Online Week 2023 possible. A big thank you also goes to our 2023 Accessibility Partner, Guide Dogs Australia, and our Financial Inclusion Partner, Bendigo Bank. Together, we achieved great things this Get Online Week and shone a light on the importance of digital inclusion for all. 

Our message behind Get Online Week has always been about digital empowerment, hope and community. We truly believe that Australia heard our message about the life changing benefits of digital skills, loud and clear. 

The opinion piece above was authored by Jessica Wilson, CEO of Good Things Foundation Australia.

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