It’s July, and I think we can all agree that 2020 has been going for 15 years.
It’s strange, and someone should look into it.
For our family, the year started unlike any other. We were in Narooma, on the kind of family holiday that doesn’t happen as much anymore because we’ve grown into adults with partners and jobs and tickets to music festivals.
We’d been looking forward to swimming and walking and seeing the penguins on Montague Island. In our minds, we were there for an idyllic Australian summer holiday, putting aside Dad’s weird conversation starters and Mum’s appalling selfies that always end up being 80 per cent thumb.
But on the morning of New Year’s Eve, we woke up to a black sky with fires raging in the distance, only made eerier by the sudden absence of electricity and mobile phone service. We spent the next two days trapped in Narooma, cooking on the gas barbecue and lining up to buy what was left on the supermarket shelves. No electricity meant no petrol, and the surrounding area was severely affected, so even once there was a ‘way out’, we were told not to leave. We wouldn’t make it to the next operational petrol station.
For many of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the fires last summer, these experiences were unprecedented. Fear, uncertainty and utter devastation spread through tiny towns all the way to the major cities, and stories of the toll of the fires on animals, livelihoods and homes made it around the world.
While families like ours went back to our homes, and the smoke in the city eased, places like Narooma had a hard road of recovery ahead of them. We’ll go back with empty eskies, we told ourselves. We’ll visit for Easter, for the June long weekend, for road trips throughout the year. We’ll build them back up.
Then the global pandemic hit.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, we were firmly told any travel was banned. We were to stay at home for the health and safety of the country. A sacrifice for every single one of us, yes, but a wound on top of a wound for those communities affected by the bushfires.
In late June and early July, restrictions in New South Wales started to ease. For many of us, the energy that galvanised us to donate to bushfire relief and tweet about our eskies has gone. But there’s a part of each and every one of us who still wants to help in a world torn apart by COVID-19.
Now, we are not nurses.
We are not doctors.
We’re not firefighters or paramedics or teachers or business owners or part of that special group of people with fancy CVs that Scott Morrison put together to rebuild the economy.