Mr PEARSON (Essendon—Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Government Services, Minister for Creative Industries)- I rise to express my gratitude to the many workers in multiple fields who have made and continue to make extraordinary contributions to Victoria’s ongoing pandemic response. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we all would not have hesitated to list nurses, doctors and paramedics among the essential workers whose job it is to protect our health and safety. As the pandemic has continued, a different reality has become apparent to all of us: there is a whole other layer of critical workers who have supported the community. They have kept us safe, clean, fed and more.

They come from my electorate of Essendon—they come from every single electorate across the state. They are nurses, doctors and pharmacists. They are aged carers and disability carers. They are orderlies, hospital admin and allied health workers, and they are testing teams. They are cleaners and waste collectors. They are contact tracers. They are bus, train and tram drivers. They are public transport staff and protective services officers. They are retail workers, supermarket check-out operators and shelf stackers. They are hospitality workers, food prep assistants and baristas who have kept the food and caffeine coming. They are police officers, paramedics and the broader emergency services team. They are delivery drivers, posties, couriers and freight handlers. They are call centre operators and other workers answering thousands of questions. They are child carers, early childhood educators, primary school and secondary school teachers, keeping calm and carrying on. And a special shout-out to every person in these categories who lives in my electorate of Essendon: I am grateful; we are all grateful. Thank you for your work, your spirit of service and your courage. We could not do this without you.