13 August 2020

Tough times bring out the best and worst in all of us

| Kim Treasure
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Author Kim Treasure with family during Black Summer bushfires.

Kim’s family battled the Black Summer bushfires together. Now COVID-19 is keeping them apart. Photo: Lucy Cartwright.

If the Black Summer bushfires brought out the best in many people, it seems COVID-19 is bringing out the worst.

When bushfires raged across our wide, brown land, we faced them as one.

Volunteers travelled from interstate, and even overseas, to battle the beast. Community groups and individuals donated time, money and resources to make sure people were fed and had a roof over their heads.

Incredible amounts of money were raised to help our fellow Australians get back on their feet.

In Batemans Bay, the love we felt from Canberrans was almost overwhelming. So many good thoughts, good deeds and support. Even hugs – remember them?

READ ALSO Queanbeyan quilters care for bushfire’s furriest survivors

Canberra and the South Coast have always had a love-hate relationship. Canberrans love to visit and many ‘coasties’ hate to share their piece of paradise.

But, like family that bickers at Christmas but won’t hear a bad word spoken by anyone else, we have a bond. Canberrans stream down the Kings Highway for weekends and holidays, and often to retire, while coasties travel up the mountain for medical appointments, work, entertainment and education.

Canberrans spend money in our shops, dine in our restaurants and help pay the rates for our facilities. They come, year after year, often bringing children who grow up to do the same.

Sadly, our reaction to COVID-19 has the potential to bring all that undone. Where bushfires brought us together, it seems COVID-19 is driving us apart.

READ ALSO Six months on, bushfire scars remain

Despite there being no COVID-19 cases in the ACT for more than a month, the online hatred exhibited during this pandemic has some Canberrans reassessing their next holiday destination.

It seems fear, ignorance and a need to find someone to blame is overtaking our commonsense. No-one could have predicted the fights over toilet paper, the battles over masks and the general abuse that now seems part of everyday Australian life.

We all have a part to play in stopping COVID-19’s spread. Social distancing, washing our hands and following appropriate health directions are givens. What doesn’t help is finger pointing, insults and aggression.

COVID-19 has irrevocably changed all our lives. It’s changed the way we celebrate births and deaths and everything in between.

Dream weddings have been abandoned, grandparents have missed the joy of holding a newborn, families have been unable to comfort each other when a loved one draws their last breath. There are 18ths, 21sts, graduations and formals that won’t be celebrated. So many life events that can’t be marked in the usual way.

READ ALSO The emotional toll of family separation during COVID-19

Far too many people have already died, and, sadly, it is likely that many more will follow.

Politicians and health authorities have deemed that border closures and shutdowns are necessary to get the pandemic under control. It’s perfectly understandable that we need to be physically separated during these terrible times, but let’s not become emotionally divided as well.

We will get through this together.

COVID-19 has robbed us all of so much – don’t let it take our humanity as well.

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Carol Holden9:40 pm 20 Aug 20

Well said. Fear causes people to lash out blindly, looking for someone to blame. It’s hard to repair that damage. Social media makes it easy to post things that one might not actually say to someone face to face, and often fuels unfair discrimination. Let’s not tear each other to shreds. We need each other.

Catri van der Merwe9:05 pm 16 Aug 20

Words of Great Truth. The stress that is caused by an unseen enemy lurking all over is severe. Tolerance should be advocated. Thank you Kim, Lucy and family

I am a small business owner in a fire effected community.. please don’t think we all feel that way! I love our visitors! I love sharing this beautiful place I call home and worked so hard to get here.I have been.. and continue to be, SO supported by our visitors! Our business will always welcome visitors and all we ask (as we also ask our locals) is to sanitize.. keep your distance.. respect our shop entry requirements and be kind to our staff and eachother. Bring your smiles… bring your excitement and bring your families and children. Be covid safe.

R Summerrell1:08 pm 16 Aug 20

In a time when we should be banding together but sadly were seeing the worst in humanity and what people forget is we are all suffering and its not about one ethnic group, not about one city, town or suburb, no about one age group … no its about the fact its all around us silently robbing us of the joy of life we treasure and value so highly, so lets not give control to do this disease, lets no let it take the joy of life away, lets hold each other up and not down …. then we can beat it and all get our lives back.

When you are ill you don’t invite visitors to your home. It’s hard to be a good host when you can’t deal with your problems. The fires left us bruised and battered. The virus has us on high alert. People on holiday often seem to want to discard all restrains and have a good time. Going for a medical appointment is essential and all health protocols are in place. It’s understandable that as hosts we are not at our best.

A good opinion piece. The panic, fear and dare I say, hatred-mongering that *some* in the Bay area generated with their antagonism to ACT visitors during the early stages of the pandemic has taken a toll on good will – and there is now a risk that it will be reciprocated as a number of Canberrans start calling for border closures to stop NSW visitors. COVID-19 will be with us for *at least* a year, and we need to learn to live with it. Nurturing understanding and responsible action (backed by solid penalties for those who act irresponsibly) will achieve far more than panic reactions. Social distancing, the wearing of masks and rigorous hand sanitisation need to become a way of life … and that should limit the need for extreme lockdowns.

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