Leadership & COVID-19


Title:The Aged Care Crisis in Australia’s COVID-19 Success Story: A Commentary

Authors: Buhler, C., Wali, N., Ball, C., Gurung, S., and Schismenos, S.

Journal: Humboldt Journal of Social Relations.

Publisher: Humboldt State University

DOI: 10.55671/0160-4341.1150


The world took a beating from COVID-19, with no nation spared. Australia’s response to the pandemic has been recognized as particularly successful, with the comparatively small total of COVID-19 related fatalities. However, these achievements in controlling the virus and keeping the economy buoyant are contrasted by significant failures, particularly the Federal and state governments’ inability to contain the outbreak within the aged care sector. This commentary forms an understanding of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia’s aged care sector, drawing from articles published in the ‘The Australian’ newspaper. We focus on priorities, responses and management at different levels, observing subsequent impacts, not only on elders, but also on workers and the wider community. Our findings indicate that neglect of elders is a pre-existing cultural and social tendency that was exacerbated and also made visible through this pandemic. The media articles particularly vilified what they saw to be government inaction, failing to address issues of safety and regulation that already plagued the aged care sector prior to the pandemic, all of which were intensified by COVID-19.


Title: ‘Side by
Side’ for COVID recovery: De-Stigmatising ageing and re-integrating elders as valued contributors to society.

Authors: Schismenos, S., Buhler, C., Gurung, S., Wali, N., Ball C., Gannon, S., Stevens, G.J., Horsfall, D., and Georgeou N.

Publisher: Royal Commission into
Aged Care Quality and Safety, Australia

File: AWF.600.02383.0001


Submissions on the impact of COVID-19 and in response to the matters examined in the hearing on COVID-19 closed on Friday, 4 September 2020.

Submissions addressed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care, and what can be learned from this experience for responding to future pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies.

Set out below is a selection of these submissions that were received.
These submissions are published without any adoption or endorsement by the Royal Commissioners and without any comment by the Royal Commissioners on the material contained in them.

The Royal Commissioners reserve the right not to publish certain submissions or to redact information within a submission. This includes circumstances where the information is not relevant to the issues in question, where matters are subject to a non-publication order or where there are privacy concerns about the information included.


Title: Failure to lead on COVID-19: what went wrong with the United States?

Authors: Schismenos, S., Smith, A.A., Stevens, G.J., and Emmanouloudis, D.

Journal: International Journal of Public Leadership

Publisher: Emerald Publishing

DOI: 10.1108/IJPL-08-2020-0079


The purpose of this paper is to review the Federal decisions to COVID-19 response in the United States and consider the different approaches employed by the California state government. This paper focuses on COVID-19 related issues, responses and implications in Federal countries, and largely draws comparisons between the Trump Administration and California state.

The slow response of the Federal government could have been avoided, had there been a current and tested national plan. The defunding of the Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats, and the lack of coordination between the Trump Administration and the states have contributed to its ranking as the country with the highest COVID-19 infection and fatality rates worldwide. California state oversaw an effective initial pandemic response, which was ultimately undermined by a lack of national support and the refusal of some citizens to comply with the restrictions.

The paper draws upon open-source information published on government websites and news media. As the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is currently ongoing, information about the Federal governance and state response is still evolving. We examine California as a state exemplar, since it is the largest such jurisdiction by populace and the first state to issue statewide mandatory lockdown measures. This comparison offers insights as to the decisive initiatives that could have occurred at the Federal level. The ‘lessons learned’ highlight the critical role of crisis leadership in societal and public health preparedness for future pandemic events.

Title: New Analysis Tools and Leadership Model for A Modern UN To: The United Nations Secretary-General

Authors: Bienz, T., Schismenos, S., Stevens, G., and Georgeou, N.

Publisher: Journal of Science & Policy Governance

DOI: 10.38126/JSPG_16_02_02

ISSN: 2372-2193


Digitalization has disrupted the way products are distributed. With this came an influx of products that depend on network effects and thrive in a winner-takes-all market environment (Schilling 2002). A similar trend is being observed in many frontier technologies, including applications in the so-called ‘gig economy’, which will create winners and losers. Simultaneously, governments are experiencing an erosion of their tax base (Peng 2016). These resources are desperately needed to tackle the widening digital divide, combatting the lack of electricity, and providing internet access to the poorest (International Energy Agency 2017). 

The current strategy of the United Nations (UN) shows promise. However, the way the UN currently operates has not been adapted to meet the challenges of a digital economy. This is often observed in global-to-local applications, especially when generalized frameworks fail to adapt to communities with different characteristics and needs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a guiding light to rally stakeholders around specific key issues and opens the field for collaboration. 

The UN is in a unique position to convince all participants to engage in negotiations, to mobilize substantial resources, and has the best chance to get concessions on restrictive systems such as the intellectual property arrangements (Haugen 2010). Systems need to be in place to facilitate technology transfers and capacities need to be built up to give the least developed countries (LDCs) a chance of catching up. The UN needs to bring international institutions, governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector to the table to enable LDCs to determine their own future (Moyo 2010). The UN should introduce more heuristic analysis tools to bring more diverse partners into workable collaborations to address these challenges. A new leadership system should also be introduced to provide clearer direction and autonomy to their contributors.

Title: Sans-papiers in Switzerland under COVID-19

Authors: Bienz, T., Stevens, G.J., and Schismenos, S.

Book Title: State Responses to COVID-19: a global snapshot at 1 June 2020

Publisher: Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative, Western Sydney University

DOI: 10.38126/JSPG160202

ISSN: 2372-2193

Pages: 96-97


Switzerland was one of the worst affected countries by COVID-19 in March 2020. On a per-capita basis it topped the global list of COVID-19 infections. Two major reasons for this are Switzerland’s strong tourism industry and its role as a major meeting point for business in Europe. After realising how exposed Switzerland is to this new biological threat, the government took drastic measures, imposing an ‘extraordinary situation’, which provides the Federal government special powers in times of crisis. Since the initial heavy exposure to the virus, Switzerland has drastically improved its response to the threat and successfully flattened the curve.

Title: “Bend it like Greece”: a success story for flattening the COVID-19 curve

Authors: Schismenos, S., Gkiatas, A., Stevens, G.J., Bienz, T., and Smith, A.A.

Book Title: State Responses to COVID-19: a global snapshot at 1 June 2020

Publisher: Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative, Western Sydney University

DOI: 10.38126/JSPG160202

ISSN: 2372-2193

Pages: 101-102


Despite the economic crisis of the last decade and substantial migration flows from Syria and northern Africa, Greece is one of the few countries that has successfully managed to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading in its territory. As of 31 May, 2020, Greece had 2,917 total confirmed COVID-19 cases with 175 deaths (6%) and 1,374 recoveries (47%). These low numbers were the result of the COVID-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan which focused on Public Safety, National Healthcare, Economy and Information Media. Several key decisions exemplified the timely response of the government and health officials from the day the first COVID-19 case was confirmed on 26 February, 2020, to mid-May. While these likely contributed directly to reduced community transmission, they also served as important signals to the community about how this campaign would need to be fought.

Title: Frontline heroes left behind: American healthcare workers during the era of COVID-19

Authors: Stevens, G.J., Schismenos, S., Bienz, T., Smith, A.A., and Gkiatas, A.

Book Title: State Responses to COVID-19: a global snapshot at 1 June 2020

Publisher: Humanitarian and Development Research Initiative, Western Sydney University

DOI: 10.38126/JSPG160202

ISSN: 2372-2193

Pages: 132-133


In October 2019, the Global Health Security (GHS) Index ranked the United States as the most prepared country against biological threats. Nevertheless, as of 1 June, 2020, the US death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak was 106,187, and confirmed infection cases had skyrocketed to 1,836,872. Currently, the US holds the highest fatality numbers recorded worldwide. These grim facts have exposed the illegitimacy of GHS Index rankings and revealed that the US was unprepared to deal with a pandemic of this magnitude. Why wasn’t America ready for COVID-19?

In May 2018, the Federal Government decided to defund a branch of the National Security Council.4 Ironically, that branch was the Health Security and Biodefense Directorate, which is responsible for pandemic preparedness. Being ill-equipped to manage this new and unforeseen COVID-19 threat resulted in a slow and disorganized national response that has jeopardized thousands of American lives.

Another reason for the current health crisis was that the Federal Government adopted unconventional policies in regard to handling the outbreak. The Trump administration left it up to the states to oversee the COVID-19 response. Most states had no unifying guidelines and created their own planning for dealing with the pandemic. For instance, California’s Governor, Mr Gavin Newson, was the first to issue stay-at-home orders starting from 19 March, 2020. This measure restricted businesses such as gyms and retail stores from operating, while it allowed others that provide more essential services (e.g. post offices and supermarkets) to remain open. Other states, based on how they judged the situation, issued their own version of stay-at-home orders or outright refused to issue orders, such as Arkansas. The often-stated purpose of stay-at-home orders is to flatten the COVID-19 curve and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.