Wednesday, 13 May 2020
A number of years ago, because one of my sons was studying it at school, I read Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. It's a story which is set in Australia and it's about a teenager, Ellie Linton, and a group of her friends who, after a week spent camping in a place they call hell, come back and find that their whole town, their whole life, has been changed: Australia has been invaded and their town decimated, and the group of teenagers need to find their own way to survive. Spoiler alert here: through their resilience, through their innovation and through their collaboration, they, or the majority of them, do survive.
It's a fantastic novel and series, and there are themes within it which really strike a chord with what we've all been through and continue to go through here in Australia throughout the COVID pandemic. The teenagers drive each other crazy. I think that—driving each other crazy—probably resonates with all of us who've been sharing our houses with our loved ones more lately than we have done for a long time. But they also realise that being together and working together, despite all of its challenges, is far better than being alone.
Like many places in Australia, in my home town we started this whole pandemic with hoarding: there were the toilet paper wars; then it moved on to rice and pasta, to no hand sanitiser in the shops, to key medications for diseases like asthma and lupus disappearing from the shelves. There was fear. There was anger. There was disbelief. There were concerns, passionately held and passionately voiced, that we were doing too little—and then that we were doing too much. Then there was a subtle change, and it was reflective of us as a nation. We simply got on with it and got on with our lives.
The creation of the national cabinet led the way, in some minds—as in the way I look back on it—as a turning point. In my electorate of Curtin, there was an early meeting between me, three of the state MPs and eight mayors and CEOs of the local councils. We had a meeting and we agreed to work together. It operated out of my office, and we set up what we called the Curtin community care initiative, giving people the opportunity to volunteer to help others, and, for those who needed help, to reach out to us to find out what sort of help they could get.
Our local newspaper, the Subiaco Post, stepped up and helped promote our endeavours, and I particularly thank Bret Christian and David Cohen for jumping on board at the beginning. Over 500 volunteers signed up to volunteer, happily and willingly, to do grocery shopping, welfare calls and low-level maintenance and gardening for other people. UWA stepped up, to answer our calls for help to find hand sanitiser; they made and gave to us vast quantities of hand sanitiser for us to deliver to people in self isolation who were vulnerable. I particularly call out Professor O'Donnell, dean of the Faculty of Science at UWA, and Greg Cozens, technical manager—they were incredible, and I thank them very much. Our local IGA stepped up—and I must mention Steve from the IGA at Swanbourne, who was the first person to get on board with helping people to actually order food online or by telephone, so that it could be delivered to them through one of our volunteers.
Our local cafes and restaurants immediately innovated. They had to shut down and they were devastated. But they managed to innovate and change their operations so that they could do takeaway meals and deliver coffees. I want to give a particular shout out to thank Glen at Deli Chicchi, who was one of the first operators near my house who actually went to free home delivery, and also the Cambridge corner shop in Wembley.
Many of our businesses have been struck very hard, and there is no doubt that the path is going to be very, very difficult for some time ahead. But, to all who have been creative and innovative, and are just hanging in there, all I can say is thank you. You are absolutely and incredibly inspirational. It's awesome to see what you do. Like everybody else, we in Curtin have many frontline workers. To all of them: thank you for everything you have done—quietly and patiently you've just gone about your jobs.
There can be no denying that it is tough for everyone, but for some it is tougher than for others. I particularly feel for all of those who have had to farewell loved ones, without a proper funeral, and for people in aged care who haven't been able to hug their grandchildren.
I want to finish by quoting Ellie from the book.
We've all had to rewrite the scripts of our lives the last few weeks. We've learnt a lot and we've had to figure out what's important, what matters—what really matters. It's been quite a time.
Order! The adjournment debate was due to conclude at five clock, but, unless there's an objection, I propose to allow the final two speakers to give their remarks. There being no objection, I call the member for Blaxland.