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Precinct Perspective

30 Apr 2020

More time to connect

By Stella Barber - Victoria Harbour resident

As a professional historian it’s impossible for me not to reflect on the historical reality that is the era of COVID-19.

In Australia’s history, it is unprecedented. This is not like the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression or the Plague, it is something the world has never seen. In years to come the toddlers of today will be studying this time in their Australian history classes, making sense of a conservative liberal government that made decisions that any socialist leader would endorse. They may face an exam question like this:

“Suddenly money was found to increase welfare benefits to levels more realistic to support subsistence living, when before it seemed acceptable that people were expected to exist on an allowance below the poverty line and we were all told, the country could not afford to offer more. Meanwhile in the United States, despite running an election campaign based on ‘Making America Great Again’, the incumbent president, Donald Trump was facing the decline in world economic rankings of his once all-powerful nation. The world order had shifted.

What do you make of this? Discuss.”

And now, of course, people are discussing this and, at the same time, a lexicon for COVID-19 times is a upon us often with accompanying acronyms. Working from home (WFH), social distancing, self-isolation, personal protective equipment (PPE) are now part of our everyday language.

What of us here in Docklands? This month’s column is supposed to be dedicated to local news in Victoria Harbour. Yet Victoria Harbour is much like all of Docklands, an eerie quiet has descended. For some, and I must confess I am among them, this is welcomed. Late night revellers no longer disturb our weekend sleeps, there are fewer cars on the road and if riding a bike is your exercise of choice there are no packs to terrify slower riders (like me!).

Yes, there have been many negative changes, the sad number of people who have temporarily lost their jobs, the threat to viable businesses, the inability to gather to celebrate family milestones like weddings, 21sts, graduations and many more. Children learning from home, elective surgeries cancelled and more women choosing home births as the safest option. But perhaps the positives to some degree balance the negatives? This is the era of Zoom, Skype and phone meetings. My family is now having weekly zoom catch ups with siblings in the UK, Broome, Emerald, Officer and Docklands all zooming in on a Sunday night with a cup of tea or glass of wine to see what each of us has been up to during the past week. Why haven’t we been doing this for years?

Likewise, more of us are catching up (by these methods) more regularly with our friends, checking in to see we are all okay. And in apartment buildings all over Docklands and most certainly in Victoria Harbour, care teams have been established to assist those in self isolation in any way they need. People are becoming kinder, more patient. We accept we have to wait patiently for our turn at shops and keep our distance from others. Pre COVID-19 (PC) people would push and jostle for their spot. Let’s hope that after COVID-19 (AC) we remember to be kind, and patient and unselfish.

With gyms closed and Park Run suspended, more people are realising you can actually stay fit without a gym and amazingly enough even on your own! I am noticing more people out and about jogging, walking, cycling than I ever saw PC. This has to be a good thing.

We are so lucky in Australia that we have not recorded tens of thousands of deaths. So far, we have come through this time relatively unscathed. People are adapting. It is sad to see so many of Docklands’ cafes and restaurants closed for the time being. Many have adapted and are offering takeaway and a wider range of food options. Saluministi in Vic Harbour now has a mini grocery set up. Min Café and Billy Barista both offer an expanded range of takeaway options. Our supermarkets are still trading, and no one is in danger of starving death as was the reality during the Great Depression.

We will get through this and when we do, we all need to shop local, support local Docklands businesses and help each other rebuild. I am hopeful that the slower pace continues, and we continue to catch up with our families more often and question the need to fly interstate for meetings, when a Skype, Zoom or phone meeting will suffice. Maybe this is the correction we needed to have? It is certainly a boon for the health of our planet. We now have more time to reflect, more time for kindness and consideration and ironically, despite self-isolation and social distancing, more time to connect •

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