COVID-19: Helping community – it's in our DNA 

PLH NRMA Patrol Nik Panas delivering medicines to the vulnerable, elderly and isolated in partnership with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia NSW Branch header
PLH NRMA Patrol Nik Panas delivering medicines to the vulnerable elderly and isolated in partnership

NRMA has received a CHOICE Shiny Award 2020, in recognition for our community support program which has seen our people, vehicles and assets mobilised to lend a support to those that need it most. We simply couldn’t have done it without our army of passionate staff.

Launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, NRMA teamed up with Meals on Wheels NSW, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia - NSW Branch, and the Australian Red Cross, mobilising our people and our vehicles to lend support to those in need. We also repurposed our other assets – Thrifty Car and Truck Rental and NRMA Parks and Resorts – to provide transport and accommodation for essential workers to perform their critical roles during a challenging time.

To be recognised as an organisation that has gone above and beyond to help people during adversity means a lot to the NRMA. We have always been there to help – on every day journeys and through global crises like the Spanish Flu, Second World War and the Great Depression.

Keeping our community safe is what we were born to do 100 years ago and it remains our purpose today, made possible by the collective effort and compassion of our people.

“The spirit of helping community is in our DNA, in our values,” says Amos Young, Senior Manager, Motoring Strategy and Optimisation. “While businesses across the country were in crisis and unsure how to respond, we turned our creative and commercial talents to helping people in need.”

In numbers: How we're helping*
  • 2,475 priority roadside assistance for emergency workers
  • 13,702 free days of car hire for health care workers
  • 8,803 nights of discounted accommodation for essential travellers
  • 477 meals delivered across Sydney, Newcastle and Tamworth   
  • 335 pharmacy deliveries across Sydney

“Our goal was to try and help every health care worker we could”

With their heavy shift work and a reduction in public transport, NRMA-owned Thrifty Car and Truck Rental has been helping to alleviate the struggle for our healthcare workers to get to and return safely from work by providing free car rental nationally. No easy feat when lockdown challenges include the logistics of moving vehicles on demand across state with border and travel restrictions.

“Our goal was to try and help every health care worker we could. I was amazed by the response,” says Louise Looi, Marketing Manager at Thrifty, “It’s been great to hear how our campaign has made a positive difference to our customers’ lives.” As of 29 May, Thrifty has provided over 550 cars and more than 13,700 days of free car rental during COVID-19 – more than any other car rental company in Australia to date.

For Louise, this initiative has been a rewarding experience. She’s proud to work for a company that, in spite of being affected by the downturn in the tourism industry, has still found a way to give back and support the community and customers. “As an Australian-owned business that believes in keeping people moving, we were really able to stand by that statement,” she adds.

“We were able to help stop a major impact to the Meals on Wheels NSW customers”

James Simmons, Stakeholder and Community Engagement Officer, along with other NRMA staff, is participating in Sydney trials to assist Meals on Wheels NSW in delivering nutritious meals to elderly residents and people living with disability unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. Deliveries have also begun in Newcastle and Tamworth. “It means a lot to be part of providing a continuation of support during a terribly difficult time for the Meals on Wheels organisation," says James.

Pre-COVID-19 a delivery person would enter the customer’s home and “have a chat”. With social distancing orders in place, Meals on Wheels found a novel way to work with the new rules – customers leave eskys out for a food drop or the delivery driver knocks on the door to alert the customer of a delivery and chats at a safe distance. 

“We were able to help stop a major impact to the Meals on Wheels NSW customers in that they were still able to get their meals,” says James. “I’m proud to be able to wear my NRMA uniform and drive around delivering meals to support the Meals on Wheels NSW organisation and their customers.” He adds both have been greatly appreciative of NRMA staff being able to step in and provide support and he encourages others to consider volunteering in their own community. “It’s not just during a pandemic, fire or flood when people need help. It’s always needed and greatly appreciated,” he adds.

“I’m grateful to be able to provide support to others feeling vulnerable, scared or lonely”

Mary English, General Manager, EMPO is one of numerous staff at NRMA that undertook training with the Australian Red Cross (ARC) to make support calls to people quarantining in hotels following arrival in Australia during COVID-19. It’s appreciation of her own circumstance during this time that prompted her to take part in this NRMA initiative. “I’m able to be home with family, healthy and continuing to work,” she says, recognising the stability and continuity that provides. “I’m grateful to be able to provide a little support to others who might be feeling vulnerable, scared and/ or lonely,” she adds.

Nicole Hyde, Audit and Compliance Manager, agrees: “I reflected on my mum who lives alone. She receives check in calls, from us – her family, but also clubs she belongs to. I thought checking in on the wellbeing of those in isolation would be a great way to show community spirit.

Prior to making calls, ARC outreach callers are required to go through a straightforward process of background checks, orientation and training. Calls can take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, talking to people of all different ages, genders, backgrounds, ethnicities and English language skills. It’s this simplicity of taking part in the program that appeals to Nicole: “The best part is you’re are able to do the calls from home – so there was no excuse to not put my hand up,” she says.

Given the isolation quarantine creates and with job losses, concerns for family and much more on minds, Kirsten Molloy, NRMA Board Director, believes providing outreach and being able to link people with useful services, or simply having a chat, has had a positive effect. “Nearly all people have had at least one question or concern they’ve raised. Most really appreciate the check-in.”

Ant Raje, Process Design Improvement Consultant agrees: “Isolation can be overwhelming for people. A quick conversation with someone who is concerned about their wellbeing provides comfort and can be extremely helpful and uplifting.”

This show of compassion is not without recompense. Nicole recounts a rewarding moment after speaking with an elderly lady unsure how to get more blankets from her room: “She was feeling cold from the air-conditioning in the room.” After the call, Nicole spoke to reception at the hotel who sent up a few extra. “It’s a tiny little thing but means a lot to someone feeling vulnerable. Isolation in a small hotel without fresh air can be tough. This group just wants to be heard and you provide comfort in that someone truly cares,” she adds.


“Help is why I joined the NRMA - that's our motto. We help people.”

Nik Panas is one of many NRMA Roadside Patrols providing home deliveries of essential medicines and supplies for elderly residents and people living with disabilities across Sydney’s south and east through NRMA's partnership with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia - NSW branch.

“I thought it would be good to help those people who are bedridden or too ill to get out of the front door,” says Nik, who has been with the NRMA for 19 years. “Help is why I joined the NRMA - that's our motto. We help people.”

He completes his pharmacy runs as part of a normal workday, usually receiving two pharmacy jobs a week, each of which involves up to 10 or 12 home deliveries. Nik says he volunteered to help deliver medicines because he understands the challenges many older and ill people are forced to deal with at the moment – especially loneliness and isolation.

“They're not expecting it to come from an NRMA person,” he says. “But when I explain what we're doing for the community and how we're just trying to help out, they're just overwhelmed. A few get a tear in their eye, because they’re not being neglected in these difficult times. Many are very lonely. When they see you, they’re just grateful.”

And our people didn’t stop there

Our patrols continued to provide 24/7 roadside assistance to Members, emergency services and essential workers, prioritising our health care heroes, with almost 2,000 medical staff assisted as of 29 May.

While across 32 NRMA parks and resorts have provided discounted rates to over 1,100 essential travellers who have been accommodated over 8,800 nights. 

To find out more about NRMA’s community support program launched during COVID-19, read here.

NRMA would like to thank Meals on Wheels NSW, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, NSW Branch and Australian Red Cross, and all NRMA staff at the NRMA, Thrifty and NRMA Parks and Resorts for keeping people moving.

*Data correct as of 12 June 2020.

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