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The Morrison Government is supporting senior Australians through two new initiatives to prevent loneliness and social isolation under a $6 million communications package.

Thirteen organisations in O’Connor will share in $57,500 funding under the Be Connected program to provide digital devices such as laptops and tablets to older residents.

In addition almost $5 million will be used to significantly expand Friend Line, a national telephone support service for older Australians, to answer 60,000 calls a year.

Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the Be Connected grants would fund the purchase of digital devices to loan out to people over 65 who are socially isolated so they can connect with friends and family during the Coronavirus.

“These grants will help improve the online skills of our senior residents who are increasingly turning to the internet to access online services during the coronavirus while expanded access to Friend Line will make sure that no seniors feel lonely or isolated,” Mr Wilson said.

“Access to support as well as digital and social connections are essential to support older Australians to live independently.

“With a third of all senior Australians living alone there is a real need for this assistance to alleviate loneliness and social isolation.”

The Be Connected program will be delivered in partnership with the eSafety Commissioner and the Good Things Foundation.

Funding for Friend Line would enable it to expand the service through to 30 June 2024.

“Friend Line is a free and anonymous telephone service that will provide older Australians an opportunity to chat with a friendly volunteer,” Mr Wilson said. 

Friend Line (1800 4 CHATS) will rapidly expand to be available outside normal business hours between 10am to 8pm, seven days a week. 

The latest investment comes on top of a new support line offering specific advice and counselling for senior Australians seeking assistance because of COVID-19.

Established in conjunction with the Council on the Ageing Australia, National Seniors Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Dementia Australia, the COVID-19 support line will operate Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm on 1800 171 866.

Recipients of Be Connected funding in O’Connor include:

Organisation Name$ AmountTown
St Stephens Lutheran Church$2500Katanning
Mount Barker Community Resource Centre – WA$5000Mount Barker
City of Albany$5000Albany
Denmark Community Resource Centre$2500Denmark
Macedonian Australian Welfare Association – Kogarah$5000Kogarah
Hopetoun Community Resource Centre$5000Hopetoun
West Arthur Community Resource Centre$5000Darkan
Kojonup Historical Society$5000Kojonup
Walpole Community Resource Centre Inc.$5000Walpole
Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association – SWADE$5000Walpole
Laverton Community Resource Centre$5000Laverton
Esperance Public Library$2500Esperance
Escare Incorporated$5000Esperance
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MEET RICK

I was inspired to run for Parliament following my involvement in a decade-long campaign to deregulate the wheat industry, which brought about the end of the Australia Wheat Board’s monopoly.

“I stand proudly for the Liberal philosophy of free markets, vigorous competition, small government and individual responsibility. These are the principles that guide me in my life and in this place. My track record in public life shows clearly that I am prepared to stand up for those principles.”

“To the electors of O'Connor, I reiterate the commitment that I have made to work tirelessly on your behalf, to always be frank and honest about the challenges we face, and to work cooperatively and collaboratively to improve the lives of the people who live in the greatest part of the greatest nation on earth”

– Rick Wilson MP Maiden Speech.