Word Girl

Borders should never be closed to kindness and understanding

By Sandy Lloyd

SANDY LLOYD WANTS US TO BREAK DOWN SOME BARRIERS

After four-and-a-half months working from home, I am finally back in the office.

No-one forced me to come back. I could have stayed at home longer if I wanted to.

But I knew for my mental wellbeing I needed to be back among human beings again.

I missed people.

I missed being in the middle of the day-to-day activities in the office, being part of the bigger picture of producing a newspaper.

Doing that at home just wasn’t the same.

Some colleagues who are still at home feel it’s better for their mental wellbeing to stay there right now, and I respect that — our needs are all very different.

Obviously working from home was the right thing to do during our initial lockdown and, if I was in Melbourne, I would still be WFH in lockdown number two.

But life is returning to a new normal in Shepparton. And as long as we all play by some simple rules to keep us all safe from COVID-19, then we can continue to enjoy this new normal.

Wyndham Street empty at 9:30 am on a Thursday morning in March, when the state was in lockdown.

And hopefully, no ‘naughty’ Melbourne people breach the barricades and visit us.

It’s a strange phenomenon, the idea of ‘us and them’.

As human beings we embrace it far too easily — the ‘us’ being the ‘good guys’ and the ‘them’ being the ‘enemy’.

It’s how wars start. It’s what leads to racial, religious and gender conflicts.

‘Us and them’ has taken on some new characteristics during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, ‘us’ is everyone else in Australia (the ‘good guys’ who have COVID-19 under control) who have labelled Victorians as ‘them’ (the ‘villains’ who have let it all go wrong).

You can hear it in the rhetoric from the other state premiers, promising their residents they will keep those bad Victorians away from their borders.

That’s despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s best attempts at unity, declaring: “We’re all Victorians now because we’re all Australians and that’s where the challenge is right now.”

I don’t think Annastacia or Steven or Peter or Mark agree with the PM at all — they’re determined to keep us as far away as possible.

I can’t blame them for that. But do they have to be so nasty about it?

At least Gladys in NSW, although she’s made an almighty mess of the cross-border restrictions, is not being so loudly horrible to us ‘Mexicans’.

With the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle still fresh in her memory, she has the sense to realise there but for the grace of God goes she. Sydney is just a few missed cases of community transmission away from joining Melbourne as the evil ‘them’.

I am one million per cent sure that when Victoria is finally ‘clean’, Queensland will be the first state to bombard us with advertising in the hunt for our tourist dollar.

Well, Annastacia, a few of us might have long memories and will consider you the ‘them’ and we will choose to support ‘us’ — tourism operators in Victoria — when we’re allowed to travel again.

But ‘us and them’ has also struck closer to home.

With Melbourne and Mitchell Shire residents in lockdown, wearing masks and being told to behave themselves, those people have become the ‘them’ to regional Victoria’s ‘us’.

Most people in Mitchell Shire, including Seymour's Station St statue, are doing their bit in the fight against COVID-19.

We want ‘them’ to stay away from ‘us’; to keep their infectious ‘them’ away from our clean ‘us’.

Yes, we don’t want what is happening in Melbourne to happen in the rest of Victoria.

But we need a whole lot less ‘us and them’ and a whole lot more ‘we are all in this together’.

Because there wouldn’t be a single person living in country Victoria who doesn’t have a loved one — or at the very least a friend or colleague or acquaintance — living in the quarantine zone.

My children are both there.

My cousin who is like my sister is there.

Other friends and family are there.

While I’m enjoying my freedom to return to working in the office and having lunch in a cafe, they are trapped at home again.

And this time it’s far more serious than the first time around. This time it’s not so impossible that someone I love or know will catch this awful disease.

They are taking every precaution and are following all the rules, I know that. But I still worry constantly about the risk they face. It keeps me awake at night and stressed during the day.

And I know I’m not the only person living ‘safely’ in regional Victoria who feels like that.

So instead of spouting the ‘us and them’ rhetoric, let’s all start singing that annoying ditty from the industry super funds ad: “We’re all in this together”.

I AM LISTENING

To The Vinyl Vault on ABC Shepparton every Tuesday morning.

Presenter Matt Dowling is joined by music guru Broph (Anthony Brophy, pictured below right) to remind us about one-hit wonders and forgotten pop songs — some which should probably remain forgotten.

They celebrated their 300th episode last November, and it hits me right in the zeitgeist, reviving so many tunes from my formative music era (1970s and 1980s).

I love it when they play a song I haven’t heard for ages, like this week’s Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through by Jim Steinman from 1981. I still have the vinyl single somewhere!

I AM AMUSED

In a can-you-be-serious? kind of way by the emails I’m receiving from my cruise company.

Despite there being no end in sight to Australia’s border closures, Royal Caribbean has cruises departing Brisbane and Sydney in October for Australian-only trips, and scheduled for November to South Pacific islands.

That would have to be the ultimate in optimism. It’s hard to imagine our borders opening before Christmas, and cruise ships are going to be on the nose even after that.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact my dreams of a trans-Pacific voyage have hit a permanent iceberg.

I AM UPLIFTED

Watching the wattle burst into vibrant yellow life in the bush along the Goulburn and Broken rivers.

I’m sure I raved about wattle at this time last year, but there’s just something joyous about those bright, fluffy pops of colour against a gloomy winter backdrop that lifts my spirits.

Wattle says “don’t worry, winter will be over before you know it”. Especially this year, when the whole world feels like a grim winter that’s never going to end, wattle is a reminder that everything renews and life will be replenished.

We just have to be patient, and life — like the wattle — will return to normal.

I AM WATCHING

A clever little show called W1A on ABC iview. Think ABC TV’s Utopia and The Games (remember that mockumentary television series about the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney starring John Clarke?) all blended together and set in the BBC offices in London.

It’s an oldie (first series was made in 2014) but it only recently hit free-to-air television in Australia.

It’s a mockumentary following the BBC’s new Head of Values (Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville) as he navigates a minefield of modern office politics and bureaucracy.

It’s full of familiar British actors, and ‘narrated’ by David Tennant.