Dr Ashley Bloomfield explains how Collective Action helped in Covid-19 management
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Muktesh Pardeshi, Christopher Luxon and other VIP Guests at Indian Newslink Lecture held on Monday, August 16, 2021 in Auckland
The Eleventh Annual Indian Newslink Lecture with Dr Ashley Bloomfield held at Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland on Monday, August 16, 2021 was an evening that had it all. It was an evening that was a perfect mix of elegance and intellect.
The evening was marked with important discussions and conversations around Good Governance and how the Covid-19 pandemic brought to light the need for efficient and far-reaching response for effective management.
A household Name
The Lecture was a much-anticipated event, with interest evinced by people across communities in New Zealand. His clear and honest communications to the people of New Zealand at the daily media briefings along with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last year as Covid-19 threatened its vicious spread, made him a household name and a ‘National Hero.’
Dr Bloomfield shared the lessons that he learnt through the pandemic and reminisced about life before Covid-19 and the events that followed the first positive case that was diagnosed on February 28, 2020.
“Leadership is an invitation to Collective Action and the ‘Team of Five Million’ responded by duly accepting the invitation,” he said.
Stating that Good Governance is fundamental to a good health care system, he said that it was not surprising that New Zealand is consistently rated as one of the least corrupt countries by Transparency International in its annual Corruption Perception Index.
Dr Bloomfield said that the New Zealand government understood and addressed the need to step up and answer all the questions at a time when so little was known about the pandemic, which had become a new global threat.
“We took all the questions and what began as a media management activity soon became the binding thread for the nation,” he said.
Power of Collective Action
Dr Bloomfield said that the power of collective action is realised when people understand the ‘why’ behind what is being asked of them.
“Our Communication Campaign, ‘Stay home, Save lives, Be kind,’ was an invitation to Collective Action, which was met with immense public support as people answered the greater call of saving others in the community. Many organisations and groups mobilised resources immediately to assist those in need and people made sure that they were looking around for anyone who needed help. That made us a success story as a Nation,” he said.
He also recalled how every department around the country worked relentlessly to make things look seamless.
“From Wage Subsidy and Covid Tracer App Rollout to housing the homeless and keeping Covid out of the prison systems, every little effort and achievement contributed to the greater picture of success,” he said.
Dr Bloomfield highlighted in his Lecture how leading self, leading others and leading contextually are all equally critical.
“When you cannot control the context, as was the case with the pandemic, you can always control your behaviour and how you decide to respond. While things around me were far from calm and peaceful, I tried to make everyone who heard me feel calm,” he said and added that many letters and emails from people, especially children remarked about his ‘calm and cool disposition’ while addressing the Nation every day.
“Since we did not have all the answers, my team and I came back every day and told New Zealanders of things that were different. We owned up when we felt that a different approach was required, and we were honest when we did not have all the answers. This was acknowledged by our people with kindness and with a heightened sense of trust and faith. We became more relatable as we knew that we were dealing with something unforeseen, together, as a team,” Dr Bloomfield said.
Master of Ceremonies Christopher Luxon
He admired our agility as a Nation and our spirit to work together in each other’s interest.
Member of Parliament from Botany (National Party) Christopher Luxon was the Master of Ceremonies at the Lecture. He set the mood for the evening and contributed immensely by creating a perfect flow.
His well-considered comments between speeches and superb handling of the Questions and Answers Session are a tribute to his ability as a ‘People’s Person.’
Mr Luxon lifted the role of Master of Ceremonies to a new level at this year’s Lecture.
Phil Goff on Indian Independence
In his Welcome Address, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff acknowledged the country’s 75th Independence day celebrations and admired 75 years of unbroken democracy which is an unparallel achievement for any Nation.
In his regular column (published on page 2 of this issue), he said that Independence Day is also a time to celebrate the contribution that our Indian community makes to the vibrancy, diversity and success of our city.
“Members of the Indian community are achieving growing success as entrepreneurs, business leaders, sportspeople and community workers. Some of these achievements were celebrated in early August at the Seventh Annual Indian Newslink Sports, Community, Arts and Culture Awards Ceremony, which was a pleasure to attend. Hundreds of people from across Auckland gathered to applaud achievements by members of our Indian and South Asian communities and enjoy traditional and contemporary music, dance and entertainment,” he said.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan on Social Cohesion
Diversity, Inclusion & Ethnic communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan, in her curtain-raiser, highlighted how Good Governance is critical to gain public support and trust, as it is only through collective initiatives that any country overcomes the challenges it faces.
She outlined how, at the emergence of Covid-19 last year, the government responded without delays to safeguard lives, livelihoods and maintained constant communication with the community.
Ms Radhakrishnan also said that social cohesion in New Zealand is admired around the globe. “As we move forward towards opening our borders, pushing the economy forward and strengthen our country internally, we need to work as a team which is diverse and yet highly cohesive and collaborative in spirit,” she said.
Reflections by Muktesh Pardeshi
In his ‘Reflections,’ India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi complimented Dr Bloomfield on his ‘uplifting Lecture and for reliving the triumphs which we as a nation achieved through the pandemic.
Speaking about the efforts of the Indian government, he said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated the ‘One Earth, One Health’ Mantra at the Summit of G7 Leaders on June 13, 2021. He said that India has pledged to vaccinate the entire eligible population by the end of 2021 in its battle against Covid-19.
Congratulating New Zealand for its remarkable resilience in dealing with the pandemic, Mr Pardeshi called on the Jacinda Ardern-led government to show a better understanding of the enormous life-threatening challenges faced by deserving students and split families.
Concluding Remarks: Professor Anil Thapliyal
In his Concluding Remarks, eMental Health International Collaborative and Health TRx Chief Executive Professor Anil Thapliyal reflected the sentiment of the audience that the Lecture seemed ‘as though Dr Bloomfield was talking to each one of us individually.’
“Dr Bloomfield’s calmness and ability to listen and relate was commendable and a huge reason for the success of his endeavours. New Zealand has a wonderful democratic set-up wherein we could agree to disagree and still create a social structure which is no less than a beautiful symphony where every instrument contributes its unique sound,” he said.
About 400 people, including Members of Parliament, local and federal government officials, corporate chiefs, businesspersons and ordinary New Zealand attended the Lecture at which Oaks Property Management, ManageMyHealth, Radio Tarana and Link2 Group were Title Sponsors and Manukau Institute of Technology, Universal Granite and Marble, Orb360 and Auckland Indian Association were Sponsors.
Praneeta Kochhar is our occasional Columnist and Reporter. She attended the Indian Newslink Lecture 2021 to file this Report. She lives in Hamilton.
Pictures by Narendra Bedekar, Creative Eye Fotographics