This time last year most of us were looking forward to holidays. And while the bushfire season was already well underway on the east coast, few could have imagined just how devastating that summer would come to be.
Many communities, especially along the coast, were thrown into disarray as fires worsened from late December. Many lost their homes. Some holiday-makers were trapped in fire-affected communities while others had to flee from danger. The skies were filled with smoke for days on end. Many firefighters spent months on the job because that's how long it took to stamp out some of the fires.
Little did we know that this was just training for what 2020 had in store for us. The country was locked down in response to COVID-19 and we all grappled with the challenges this entailed, whether it was losing a job, being unable to visit loved ones, or struggling to balance work with home-schooling children. In Victoria, of course, these challenges stretched on for much longer than in the rest of the country.
But lest you think this is a tale of the woes that we've all lived through, the point of this is to say that I'm ending 2020 on an optimistic note.
We're starting to get a sense of what a 'COVID-normal' life may look like, as restrictions gradually ease across the country
The Bureau of Meteorology has advised that after a series of dry summers, we're now experiencing a La Nina event, with the hope of increased rain across central, eastern and northern Australia. Hopefully that also means lower risk of fires. Country communities that had their tourist trade shut down by bushfires and then COVID-19 restrictions are now brimming with people, with accommodation booked out. We're starting to get a sense of what a 'COVID-normal' life may look like, as restrictions gradually ease across the country.
Meanwhile, promising results from vaccine trials suggest that most of the experiences we've gone without may ultimately be possible again. While this suggests that life may return to something like what we previously considered normal, I'd like to think we'll keep some of the positive changes that have come out of this experience.
At CHOICE, we've embraced workplace flexibility, allowing staff to nominate how they would like to work and accommodating it where we can – which is most of the time. Doing more meetings via phone and video has allowed us to connect with people – such as our colleagues in the consumer movement – more frequently. We've found creative ways to hold events like our annual Shonky Awards, with great results.
As I start to think about 2021, I look forward to a year where we can continue the best of these experiences as part of our new normal. Until then, best wishes to you and those close to you for a safe and happy summer.