Lockdown learnings: rethinking what is essential

TAKING STOCK: We must look at our communities and create an understanding of what is truly important. Picture: Shutterstock
TAKING STOCK: We must look at our communities and create an understanding of what is truly important. Picture: Shutterstock

As we go through yet another lockdown in Victoria, I've been thinking a lot about the whole situation and I've learned a thing or two along the way.

I think politics has become a topic of conversation at the dinner table in a lot more homes over the last 15 months.

Comparing and contrasting leadership styles, pandemic responses, and state versus federal policy development has never trended so much in the history of the traditionally laid-back nation of "she'll be right mate".

This, in particular, is a telling change as our apparent collective wavering faith in our federal government has a spotlight shining on it.

The most-recent NewsPoll puts Labor in front as the preferred party in a two-party system by a stunning six points.

COVID has forced us to pay attention, because suddenly the policies enacted are affecting all of us in more invasive ways.

They affect whether we can leave the house, why we can leave the house, whether we can go to work and where we can work.

Those thrown at the mercy of the federal and state governments for help through the federal JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs, or through state-based disaster relief funding - all of which are wonderful programs if you qualify - live and die on the announcements of whether they are extending of expiring these options for income support. Literally.

The Launch Housing Homelessness monitor reveals that, initially, the pandemic led to unprecedented state-based action at the beginning of everything last year, booking in 33,000 rough sleepers and others into hotels and temporary accommodation.

Furthermore, the Victorian and NSW governments expanded housing capacity for those who are experiencing homelessness, by leasing private rental properties.

However, as Geoffrey Chaucer said, all good things must come to an end.

After all, the ever-growing debt that this support accrued has been a worry to those in secure jobs with roofs over their heads.

With homelessness and labour force underutilisation on the rise again, it seems like it was almost cruel - to give so generously and made significant inroads into the issue and then take it away, despite ongoing plans for action.

The cessation of much of this support has meant that navigating the continued "snap" lockdowns that turn into ongoing lockdowns bring a wealth of stress. We've all been here before. We know what it's like.

Don't get me wrong, I know it needs to be done, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

People who run smaller businesses and don't have the revenue to warrant applying for GST suffer in Victoria because they are ineligible to apply for the business recovery support.

There is a large group of people who are working to bring money into their family who are just missing out on the business recovery packages and the income support offered to private citizens wouldn't even scratch the surface of the business expenses.

We have to close our doors, but our expenses are still racking up and not being able to pay rent on an office you can't get to, is a tough spot to be in.

I think we are in an interesting position at the moment.

We are all taking a good, hard look at our communities and building a transient understanding of what "essential" means; whether it is to do with "essential services" for work, or "essential items" for the home.

This forces us all to take stock of our communities and really build an understanding of what is important.

Looking at the services the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) deems to be essential, it makes us question what services they provide that we can't live without.

Personal and medical care, childcare and education, relaxation, transportation, click and collect retail justice, trades, food, news, mail, financial services and diplomacy seem to be our core valued societal themes.

If we were to reconstruct our community following the pandemic around this knowledge, what do you think would be missing? Human connection. And there's no welfare payment for that.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocate at impressability.com.au.

Twitter: @ZoeWundenberg

This story Lockdown learnings: rethinking what is essential | Zoë Wundenberg first appeared on The Canberra Times.