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Byron Shire
May 14, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The ten lessons of COVID – Our year of wonders

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So long 2020, it was hard knowing you…

This wasn’t the year any of us expected. It’s been full of disappointment, dashed expectations and uncertainty. To live in a time of global pandemic is history in the making. The bubonic plague took out 200 million people in just four years. Thanks to better public health, the internet, and co-ordinated government approaches (in most places) we’ve been able to keep our first year of deaths down to just over one and a half million. This year has shaken us up. Made us think about how we live, who we live with and what we want. It has, to use the title of one of my favourite books by Geraldine Brooks (set in a village in lockdown in 1666), been a ‘Year of Wonders’. So what have we learnt that we can take forward?

  1. Life is uncertain. Everything can change in an instant. Life is impermanent. While it feels a bit shit when your trip to Bali is cancelled, or your business is closing, there is a strangely positive tilt to that, if you can find it; that nothing really matters. All that stuff we do that we think is important, is actually quite meaningless. It means things won’t always stay the same, and sometimes not being the same is a good thing.
  2. We can change how we behave globally. Quickly. For those encouraging us to pursue the changes we need to address the climate crisis, this gave some hope. The only problem is, climate change might need to change its branding to Environmental Pandemic. Governments and corporations seemed to have taken notice of that faster. But clearly we are capable of a reset.
  3. Some people are fuckwits. They can’t help it. They were born that way. Like the dude on my plane who wouldn’t wear a mask when asked to. Everyone else wore a mask except him. He was clearly special. Hopefully the masks protected us from breathing in his toxic mindset.
  4. Staying still isn’t as bad as we thought. We live in the world of busy. Then busy stopped. It was like 1981. It’s okay not to be busy. Busy people got to meet their families and discover they actually liked their children.
  5. Zoom sucks. Yeah it was great for a while, in a world where we lived with the fear of being replaced by robots, until we realised how much we love other humans.
  6. You can work from home. Not everyone has to go to the office. Many businesses discovered an increase in productivity when their staff could pop a load of washing on at smoko. Nigel at the tax department was so much easier to deal with when chatting to me from his bedroom with his dog on his lap.
  7. The government can pay a Universal Wage. They should do it all the time. People were happy. They were shopping. The money went out, and then came back in.
  8. People will believe what they want to believe. It has nothing to do with fact or science. And while saying this, may I qualify it with the fact that when a scientist releases scientific information they do not preface it with ‘this is science’. Because it is science. Only stuff that isn’t science, tells you that it is.
  9. America is broken. It’s finished. The glory days of that empire are over. I’ll be watching Chinese films now.
  10. It’s not about what you do, or what you earn. It’s about whom you love. How you love. How you make your tiny life grand. It’s about connection. That’s the only certainty there is. 

Glad we made it through 2020 – well almost – Co co co! Happy Xmas. 


Recent stories, information and updates regarding COVID-19

Greater Sydney under COVID related restrictions

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has just announced that greater Sydney area will go into lockdown until next Monday.


Brisbane Airport green zone breach update

A story The Echo posted this morning about the breach at Brisbane International Airport has been updated as the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young, has declared the international terminal a venue of concern.


Anzac Day commemorated across Australia

Anzac Day was a bit different this year because of COVID, but commemorations went ahead across the country.


Ballina Council debates waiving Seagulls debt

The matter of over $15,000 owing to Ballina Shire Council by the Ballina Seagulls Rugby League for unpaid rates was discussed at council's last meeting.


Vehicle sanitisation stations roll out

Enhanced safety measures for point to point transport such as taxis, hire and rideshare vehicles are being rolled out in Byron Bay, Ballina and Lismore with the opening of three free temporary vehicle sanitisation stations.


Dili facing double disaster

The capital of East Timor, Dili, is reeling after flood waters swept through the city on the weekend, leaving at least 27 dead. The President of East Timor, Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo, described the floods as a 'great calamity'.


Northern Rivers COVID restrictions lifting at midnight

NSW Health has confirmed that COVID-related restrictions for the Northern Rivers will be lifted at midnight tonight (Monday 5 April).


COVID testing encouraged in the NNSWLHD

On Easter Sunday afternoon the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) has thanked the community for coming forward in large numbers for COVID-19 testing, with more than 10,000 tests conducted in the region in the past week.


Face masks for Ballina and Byron businesses

As masks become harder to find across the Northern Rivers following the latest COVID-19 health alert, NSW Health has provided masks for business operators in Ballina and Byron Shires.


UPDATE: Thousands of COVID tests conducted across northern rivers

The Byron Shire community and visitors have come forward in large numbers for testing following the alert of two COVID positive visitors coming to Byron Bay last weekend.


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  1. THE TREPIDATION ACT 21st CENTURY [Stefanie Bennett]

    Renegade neutrons
    fall apart
    on the front lawn
    yet – you, with
    your cold
    aerial of souls’
    hand them
    a clean
    bill of health…

    Seems strange how
    a ‘for real’
    shooting star’s
    never around
    you want one.

  2. Thanks for the controversy you’ve generated throughout this year, Mandy. Someone has to do it! And all the best for 2021.

    Hope that old white man (the one with the red hat) visits you tonight with gifts a-pleanty.



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