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COVID-19 Has Taught Us So Much

By Dr. Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on August 6, 2020 in Other

Way better than work. Photo: Roland Pin

As we enter the middle of 2020, it becomes apparent that we have just lived through extraordinary times, and none of us saw it coming. It hit us suddenly and brutally in the early months of this year and it is obvious that its impact on individuals has varied greatly, but no one has been unaffected.
The effects of COVID-19 on our small businesses, sole traders, and those working in the entertainment, travel, and accommodation industries have been dreadful. I feel deeply for the many people who have lost their livelihoods, as well as the increasing numbers that are experiencing food insecurity.
Yet even within the dreadful context of a global pandemic, there have been opportunities for good things to happen that deserve recognition. It is important that we acknowledge what we have gained through this difficult time and, if possible, ensure we build on these lessons.
As a community, we have certainly achieved a great deal. First and foremost, to this point in time at least, we have managed an amazing success rate in combating the spread of COVID-19 among our community, and this has been a direct result of all of us doing what has been asked of us in terms of social distancing and hygiene. This self-discipline has been mixed with a strong sense of community and kindness. We also learnt to value our essential workers.
The support of neighbours for the elderly and those at risk throughout these months has been beautiful to witness. I have been privileged to be a part of a number of community initiatives to assist those in need, including donating and collecting used computer devices to benefit kids who need them, setting up community cupboards so food and goods can be discreetly accessed by those without, and helping support our struggling small local businesses. It has been wonderful seeing our community come together at this time, something I hope stays with us for many years to come.
We have also learnt to use technology much more effectively. How wonderful were our children learning to adapt to online learning, and their teachers who made it happen almost overnight? Let’s not forget the amazing parents who learnt to run a small classroom at home! While this was happening, our pollution levels decreased and many of us are now asking whether we really need to go back to daily commuting and full-time face-to-face work. Zoom is now a part of our everyday language and many organisations have finally recognised that their employees are capable of doing their jobs without direct control.
Solitude, or at least more contemplative time, gardening and lots more home cooking are also benefits of our social isolation. It seems that everyone I know has learnt or experimented with something new this year. In my family, we have baked bread, made fresh pasta, done jigsaws, planted masses of veggies and even done a bit of cleaning up around the house. We have seen more of our neighbours, as they have tended to sit out the front of their homes or walk around the block, and we have certainly shared much more family time.
As I contemplate the implications of COVID-19 in our area, I am of course reminded of those words from The Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”