Yesterday was a low day for me. I know it was an awful day for many others, especially survivors of sexual abuse.
These days are testing for most of us in ways we could not have foreseen even a couple of weeks ago. I have been on my own for a number of weeks and working at home for two. My family is safe interstate and I am very fortunate to still be working.
I am generally a pretty happy person but these past few days have surprised me. Yesterday I felt particularly sad. I have felt quite alone despite the numerous zoom meetings and catch-ups. After a day of sitting at my computer writing, reading and doing Zoom meetings, it’s the last place I want to be in the evenings.
I am lucky my days are busy but not in the way they were. I thrive on work and most importantly people. The challenges have been unexpected. The routine of home detention for one. Each day brings different issues but the days are like Groundhog days. I get up early, listen to the news, look at emails and drink coffee made at home. The rest of the day then consists of telephone calls and video meetings.
Because the pools are shut, I can’t swim anymore (my longest passion in life) so I am obsessed by the pedometer on my phone. In the afternoon or evening, I walk and call friends and family more than I ever did. I haven’t ordered take away in weeks. Before Covid 19, I barely ate at home. I barely was at home! I met different people everyday and on citizenship ceremony days shook hands and hugged hundreds. Now I leave the house once, maybe twice a day, just to walk and shop. I haven’t stockpiled any food or groceries and while I have gone to the local independent supermarket a couple of times, I shop locally now.
Each night I make myself a cheeky snack of parmesan crisps. Basically, I grate some parmesan, mix in some chilli flakes and pepper and spread it into thin rounds on baking paper and pop in the oven for four minutes.
Like many, life is starting to feel almost unreal and the announcement that the Reserve Bank will make billions of dollars by changing a few zeros on their computer, seems even more like we’re in some virtual reality.
As well as being a happy person I am generally an optimist. I can see that people are spending more time with their families. They’re out on the local creek walks or playing chasies on the oval and for most, this is great but for others less so.
Economic stress, job loss and fear of the future is a bad formula and it is anticipated that family violence rates are erupting but right now the crisis phone lines are ominously quiet.
The streets are solemn, the playgrounds are taped up, the trams, roads and buses are almost empty.
I have been speaking to people every day who can’t access Centrelink payments, who are on the verge of homelessness, or who just have no idea how to spend so much time with their children and/or partners.
So yesterday was a difficult one and I am sure there will be more but I woke up today thinking about whether there will be positive outcomes from this and what could Covid give apart from a virus? Could this be a tipping point of sorts?
Many of us have found new ways to work. Employers are realising that staff can work effectively and productively from home. What if the trams and the roads were always quieter because many of us spent a day or two working from home?
We all know the effects that school holidays have on congestion and imagine if that reduction of traffic was an everyday and permanent thing?
It could also mean that people could live in regional areas while holding down a city job. It could mean school runs and bedtimes would be less hectic. There are many people who can’t work at home including our wonderful health workers and our much missed hospitality workers but for the majority of us we could stay off the roads and trains during peak hour which would mean the trains and trams were used more consistently throughout the day and everyone would get a seat.
Currently in Victoria it is estimated around 25,000 people are homeless. Many of them are families escaping violence and older women. And right now there are about 35,000 hotel rooms that are largely empty. International and interstate visitor numbers are not expected to return to pre Covid numbers for some months or years. What if we secured some of these properties for six and 12 months? We could provide our vulnerable community with safe housing and the health services that they need to get back on their feet while building more housing as part of the post Covid stimulus. This could be the catalyst we need to solve homelessness. It provides us with the opportunity to roll out a housing first or housing plus model that every single expert around the world tells us is the most effective way to end homelessness.
The cost of problem gambling in Victoria is estimated to be a whopping $7billion a year. What if, when pubs and clubs re opened, we encouraged them to retire some of the poker machines or implement some harm reduction policies? No doubt there will be stimulus packages for business rolled out post Covid. They could provide an incentive for clubs to invest in live music and other activities and move away from gambling revenue. Machines don’t employ people but music, food, games do.
So today I’m encouraging everyone to be optimistic and think about what Covid could bring us and what it already has.