I wish to take this opportunity, as I did in in Parliament last week, to both thank and praise my constituents in Gippsland South for their diligence and patience in adhering to the incredibly difficult lockdown conditions we have all had to endure this year.
It has been a difficult year for all of us – from those few who have been ill from contracting COVID-19, to the businesses and workers who have lost their livelihoods or seen them placed on hold, to school students who’ve had a massively disrupted year, and to all of us, especially the elderly and alone, who have found physical isolation very hard.
But Gippslanders have worn it well. In the main, we have abided by the restrictions and stuck together as a community, and it’s shown with very low numbers of cases in my two shires, South Gippsland and Wellington, just 12 and 16 respectively in total.
It has been frustrating as we have battled interpreting the rules (constituent emails to me have spiked 130 per cent), battled bureaucracy and nonsensical decisions both here and in other states, and wondered if it was all worth it, especially when the second wave hit and we had to start all over again.
I want pay tribute to all those who have helped: the Neighbourhood Houses helping people get through it, materially and mentally – some regular drop-ins with technophobia have become whizzes at Zoom catch-ups to ensure they get some human contact, the charities that are helping those in great need, the neighbours helping each other out, and the business owners putting enormous strain on themselves to keep their staff employed.
And a special shout-out to our frontline workers in police and emergency services, nurses, doctors and allied health staff.
And to anyone who has just tried to brighten the day of our community – a ‘spoonville’ here, a teddy in the window there, a child’s chalk artwork on the footpath somewhere else.
For anyone struggling through this, please reach out – to friends, family, colleagues, me or if need be, to Lifeline on 13 11 14.
We all can’t wait for this to be over and for life to return to some sort of normal. In the meantime, from your local MP – thank you.
Danny O’Brien MP, State Member for Gippsland South, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ambulance Services.