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The beginning's end

  • 24 April 2020
We are at the end of the beginning. ‘If you feel you have coronavirus…’ I tune out emotionally and daydream as the public service announcement plays over and over in empty trams and trains, and in deserted shopping centres. Likewise, the regularly updated posters, once read and puzzled out, are quickly part of the scenic wallpaper.

In Australia, where despite our blunders and our worst and best efforts we have had a limited amount of fatalities, we seem to be in our Drôle de guerre or our ‘phoney war’ (that’s what historians dubbed the period from September 1939 to April 1940 during WWII for the relative lack of action).

The initial panic purchasing has settled down (the belligerent racism has unfortunately not gone away). The soothsayers, mythmakers, truthshakers and doomsayers have had their hits, their headlines, fatality rates, sources of indignation and horrified delight.

Across Oz, we have settled into a scared, resigned half-life. Those of us in essential services get up, travel into emptied workplaces and travel home to repeat the same the next day.

An estimated million Australians rendered unemployed through dire need to contain the spread of COVID-19 have become acquainted with the pain of a frayed safety net and are exploring the federal government’s stimulus packages with bosses or former bosses.

Our nation’s senior citizens are mothballed. Those of us with elderly parents and grandparents are hoping we will see them again on the other side of the viral tide. Children, teenagers and the twenty-somethings, post-bushfires, are online or binge watching what they can.


'Chalk drawings of birds, rainbows, butterflies, flowers emerge on footpaths, and teddy bears poke their hirsute snouts against windows to amuse young kids and their weary parents and carers as they perambulate the same blocks, getting the same raised eyes, smiles and nods.'  

Shopping for the bare necessities, eschewing physical contact, isolating ourselves to protect the vulnerable. The holding pattern is holding; at least for now.

And what is the price of this half-life we are living? 

Family violence stats seem to be spiking in some states, especially New South Wales. Amanda Gearing wrote that there ‘is no longitudinal research on what happens when families are required by government regulation to stay at home for six months, because it has not happened in living memory. Victims and their children who live with the perpetrator will be at constant risk.'

Australia’s mental health is also being impacted by the uncertainties and isolation. The Australian Government