Community spirit comes to the fore in crisis

For many, this week is certain to have elicited some of the seven stages of grief. The road map, as laid out last Sunday by Premier Daniel Andrews, was tougher and longer than most would have expected. After the shock and denial, there is sure to have been some pain, anger and even depression. Let's hope most find their way to acceptance.

On Sunday night, we will take the first baby steps towards a COVID-19 "normal". For those in Melbourne, the curfew will lock in an hour later, exercise will be extended to two hours and those living alone will get some reprieve. For those in regional areas there will be a few bigger steps, including the return of students to classrooms and children to childcare. They are all a welcome return of some of our lost freedoms.

We have a task ahead of us to keep our individual and collective communities strong.Credit:Luis Ascui

But as the months stretch before us, particularly in metropolitan Melbourne, with little chance of partaking in much of the communal life that we once enjoyed, it is surely time to remind ourselves of the task ahead in keeping our individual and collective communities strong.

For while the road map offers considerable detail on the do's and don'ts of our movements, it offers little in the way of guidance on sustaining our connections to each other. The success of flattening the curve for a second time is dependent on every one of us making the right decisions. The success of keeping our communities together is no different.

During these times, every day has become an R U OK? day. Every day has become one in which each of us plays a part in looking out for family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. And it's not just those personal bonds that will need nurturing. The local cafe and restaurant that is your favourite haunt, your local sporting group, performing arts company or volunteer groups that enrich our lives. They are all relying more than ever on your business, support and best wishes.

For when we do finally return to "normal", how much our community reflects what we left behind many months ago, will depend on the decisions we make today, tomorrow and in the weeks ahead. There are no rules or guidelines, just acts of decency and caring. Of looking out for one another.

And then there is our state as a community. While doubts have been raised over the rules, the road map, contact tracing, hotel quarantine – even epidemiological modelling has been much discussed – most Victorians are staying the course. It's a credit to our public discourse that we can question and criticise, while also accepting the need to stay together. This is not the time to fracture.

Politics is a profession that often thrives on discord. To his credit, Premier Daniel Andrews has refrained from the usual sparring, despite no shortage of incoming political fire from Canberra. Mr Andrews is hardly free of fault, but his government has largely stayed united and focused on the enormous job at hand.

This crisis has crystallised what it means to be a Victorian and a Melburnian. The community that has come to the fore during this time is one that is resilient, tolerant and caring; that is willing to sacrifice personal freedoms to protect the most vulnerable.

That is a community we have all played a role in forging. It is one that we should be proud of.

Note from the Editor

The Age’s acting editor, Michelle Griffin, writes a weekly newsletter exclusively for subscribers. To have it delivered to your inbox, please sign up here.

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