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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Life in Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown

CW’s remote intern and former Canberra resident, Josh Martin, provides an insight into his life under stage four restrictions in Melbourne:

For eight months, Melbourne has been shackled with some form of serious restriction and for eight months I have resisted leaving Australia’s cultural capital to move home to Canberra to live with my parents.

As a 21-year-old, I try not to indulge my thoughts about what I’ve lost in the past six months.

The streets of Melbourne aren’t dark or despondent like when we were recording 700-plus new cases a day.

Our good days are sunny ones, where Melbourne’s park life is reawakened, and we visit our local hoping to absorb some Vitamin D and that it produces enough serotonin to forget what is happening in the world.

The new Melbourne vogue is picnics, band merch masks, takeaway containers of tap beer; a lovely social compromise is seeing casually PPE’d friends outside on the weekend.

I live in a share house with my girlfriend and some friends and I can’t complain about that at all. I believe we will look back at this bizarre period with gratitude to each other – for the comfort of being there. 

But stay home life is formless and with a lot of time to think, it occurred to me recently that when I strip away the external world events of the last six months, I can barely remember any memories of my own making.

It feels like the news cycle has displaced my own lived experience while in lockdown stasis.

I miss my family in Canberra, who are living real lives.

I wish I had been there for my parents’ birthdays. I wish I had seen my brother as he moved out of home. 

I don’t wish to trigger the world’s tiniest violin in whining; I believe lockdown is necessary and unfortunately it will be necessary for some time.

But here in Melbourne, we have earned the right to admit that meaningful life appears to be ebbing away with each rotation of the sun.

This week, I finished my journalism degree without seeing my professors or classmates and if I’m being honest, I’ve forgotten what some of them look like.

We’re being thrown out, fresh from a year of digital study, with the worst job prospects of any media graduates in recent memory. 

And the golden prize of the prestigious ABC cadetship has been cancelled for 2021 – the announcement coincided nicely with the end of our semester.

Most of my work outside school is music journalism, a thin field with increasingly less to report on in a year without live performance.

My music writing drives home the failure of state and federal governments to include musicians and the arts in coronavirus recovery discussions – even when they are spouting the arts is good for the economy – they still don’t seem to care.

I love music and I’m saddened its supporting framework has quietly toppled.

Maybe the worst part of the protracted second lockdown is that I no longer believe we will get to a “better normal”.

We were all together in the first lockdown, sharing this strange moment but believing we would come out of it as better people.

Now, I feel like the other states revel in their three-quarter-full openings, enjoying the “normal things” and skirting around the same monolithic issues that have exposed Victoria’s vulnerabilities in an unprotected casualised workforce, welfare rates and social justice.

The dream of more serious reforms in response to what’s happened in Melbourne may be gone; it’s okay now to hope for the little things like simply seeing our people again.

And even though the date keeps getting pushed back, I know it’s coming soon. 

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