COVID Uncertainty Means Holidays Haven't Refreshed Us

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Published in The West, Friday 14 January 2022.

At the beginning of January, I typically pen a love letter to Perth and this newspaper has been good enough to publish a number of these Op-eds over the years.

Quite frankly, at this time of year I usually find myself smitten. Any barnacles that appeared during the previous 12 months have been rubbed clean by sun, sand and leisure. Rested and relaxed from a summer break, I am usually eager to reflect on the positive changes that have occurred and in doing so, wax lyrical about the high quality of life we enjoy here in the West.

In years gone by, my memo to the place I call home has praised the transformative moves that are helping to reshape and revitalise Perth such as Elizabeth Quay, Optus Stadium and the WA Museum Boola Bardip. Things that are helping to put Perth on the map.

My adoration for Perth has in no way diminished yet I am finding this year’s billet-doux harder to write. Throughout last year, locals acknowledged just how good we had it in WA compared to elsewhere in Australia but as 2021 drew to a close, everyone I spoke to was looking forward to a holiday. A year defined by uncertainty, constraint and a distinct lack of resources – be they workers or toilet paper, had taken its toll. “I just need to get through these next few weeks” was a constant refrain in the lead up to Christmas.

Having had that well-earned break, many colleagues talk of not feeling as refreshed and raring to go as usual. It appears that despite wanting to lean into the new year many can’t summon the mental energy to do so. Despite how relatively easy life in WA has been, Sandgropers are experiencing an out- of-character malaise.

The successive waves of fear, panic and doubt that have befallen us over the past 2 years are nothing compared to the storm that is racing across the Nullarbor and coming our way very soon. In the buildup we spend hours conjecturing - will we or won’t we open the borders on 5 February? If we do, how many of us will be affected by one or more of the COVID-19 strains. How sick will we get? Will the hospitals cope? Will people die?

As our collective angst gets more palpable by the day, I watch the lives of my friends elsewhere in the nation and across the world via social media as a spectator in a seemingly parallel universe.

One friend based in Baltimore moved to Mexico for a few months simply because she could work from anywhere. Several colleagues based in the UK have made several work trips to the US. A school friend from Sydney is currently holidaying in Honolulu. Their travels show that even with various strains of COVID rife, real life can go on. Yet in WA we are not so certain about how it will happen, and this is making us anxious.

Unexpected twists and turns are, I think, at the heart of our trepidation. Since March 2020 when COVID-19 hit our shores, our ability to lead individual lives and make independent decisions has been restricted. Those who have lived through World Wars understand this all too well but the majority of us haven’t experienced anything like this before and hope never to again.

Mostly we have rallied, shown up as our better selves and done what is right for the community at large. It will be interesting to see how much further our resilience can be tested and how far our collective goodwill can stretch.

Marion Fulker AM

CEO, Committee for Perth

Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, UWA

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.