After COVID-19: do we want to go back to “normal”?
By Ellen Sandell - State MP for Melbourne
What a strange start to the year we’ve all had.
If, in January, you’d told me that I’d spend more than a month bunkered down at home with my three-year-old and one-year-old, unable to leave or to see family and friends, with playgrounds, cafes and schools all closed, I wouldn’t have believed it.
2020 sure has dealt us some cruel blows, especially for those affected by the bushfires who have also had to deal with unemployment, home-schooling, anxiety, and everything else that has come with this pandemic.
But while it’s been an incredibly tough start to the year, this pandemic has also brought out some of the best aspects of humanity.
While physically apart, communities like ours have come together in the most incredible ways.
In my street we started a neighbours’ WhatsApp group and people offered to buy groceries for each other. I’ve noticed people much more willing to smile at each other and say hello as they pass by (at an appropriate distance!).
We’ve seen state and federal governments jump in to help out the vulnerable, with increases to JobSeeker, JobKeeper, free childcare and additional support for people sleeping rough on our streets.
As we look towards life after COVID-19, now is the time to ask: what kind of society do we want to build? Are there some elements of pre-COVID life we might like to leave behind?
Do we really want to return to “normal” if that means a record number of people sleeping rough on the streets, an unemployment system that leaves many people behind, and an economic system that values profit over the planet?
Instead, I’d like to see us build a better “normal”.
The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that governments can make bold, transformative decisions when they need to. For example, the Victorian Government has set aside more than $24 billion for our state’s recovery and to help people back into work.
With this, we have the opportunity to do things differently.
I think our community would like to see our government use this to
Build tens of thousands more public homes, to make sure everyone has a roof over their head;
Create jobs in building renewable energy infrastructures;
Fund a huge environmental restoration program which would create jobs for young people as well as restore ecosystems and communities damaged in the summer’s bushfires; and
Boost our public hospitals and public schools, so no one has to go to a school that’s falling down around them, and our carers, educators, and healthcare workers are paid properly for the incredible work they do.
I call this a “Green New Deal” or “building a better normal”, but I’d love to hear your ideas for what this could look like. Post-pandemic, is there something you’d like to leave behind? What society do you want to build, now we’ve been reminded what is truly important?
Please email me [email protected] and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we create a society that puts people’s health and happiness first •