There’s been a lot of negativity over the past 18 months. It’s hard to avoid, even if we want to. But we have a choice now; as the vaccine rollout continues at pace, we can look forward rather than backwards. We can harness what we have in our power to create a brighter future for ourselves, our families, our colleagues and our society. It will give us something to look forward to, because we all need that right now.
Let’s make the choice to bring back what we love. We stayed home, we had to shut our businesses and struggle through, we were stood down from our jobs, we fought for our livelihoods, we had to stay away from our family and friends. We’ve done what’s been required.
Now, we need a light on the hill. Let’s look forward to when vaccination rates will be nearing 60-70 per cent. Let’s build our restart off the back of our pre-pandemic strengths.
Let’s kick this off with a ‘Sensational Spring and Summer for Vibrant Victoria’.
Firstly, education needs to be Victoria’s top priority. I can’t think of anything that is more important right now, when our children have endured such a stop-start education over two school years. All children and teenagers should return to kindergarten, school, TAFE and university for the entirety of term four. This should extend to camps and day incursions. They need to see their friends and teachers and we need to be ambitious to make it happen.
Our events and entertainment sector is on its knees. We have such incredible, global leading intellectual property in running events, yet we are facing a wipeout of talent. We can reverse that, but it starts with accepting that those who are vaccinated should have opportunities to enjoy some freedom.
There has been much speculation about the AFL Grand Final. It should be held at the MCG with at least 50 per cent crowd capacity and double COVID-19 vaccination a condition of entry. Yes, some will miss out because they haven’t had the opportunity to double vax yet but if it goes interstate those people wouldn’t be able to attend anyway. The best course for Victoria is to keep it here. Let’s be bold and have an outdoor live site around the MCG as well where entry is also for those who are vaccinated.
It will be a good template for how we can expand the strategy for the Spring Racing Carnival, Boxing Day Test and then the Australian Open which should be able to welcome even bigger crowds toting their vaccination passports or certificates. The eyes of the world will be on Victoria if we can pull that off successfully. It will pave the way for our recovery as it not only will start providing a way for thousands of businesses and workers who make up this important sector, but it will show the rest of the world we are open.
The hospitality industry has shown ingenious innovation and adaptability over the past 18 months. Car parks have become grassed dining areas and marquees have been erected to expand their outdoor footprint. Going into the warmer weather again, outdoor dining should continue to be encouraged and incentivised given we know that the virus is much less likely to spread in outdoor settings.
Building on that, we could activate the CBD, regional cities and suburban hubs with street closures, creating a more inclusive atmosphere.
Our enviable arts scene has become a distant memory for many of us; when’s the last time you went to the Arts Centre, Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks or the NGV? These institutions, and others, are the heart of Melbourne’s culture. If we want to preserve that heart, we need a plan to celebrate and support it. How about discounted family, multi-venue passes to encourage visitation and rekindle our love affair with our cultural scene? Let’s challenge ourselves to get out there are see them again when lockdown lifts.
Many of us (me included) have missed our annual pilgrimage to the snow. Hopefully the snowfields can welcome back metropolitan visitors again soon so let’s incentivise the operators to extend the traditional ski season and stay open until mid-October when vaccination rates will be higher. Perhaps the State Government could do that with a two for one deal on lift tickets for example.
Finally, we all need and are looking forward to a break. We know we are scheduled to meet the 80 per cent vaccination rates required for National Cabinet to endorse our ‘opening up’ by mid-December so a ‘glorious Victoria staycation’ is well within reach.
The State Government can support that with an engaging advertising campaign to encourage holidays locally, incentives for those who complete visits across multiple locations and celebration of regional food, wine, beer and spirits.
And then, before we know it, we will be in a position to travel and welcome back international tourists, which I know is something the travel and tourism industry is so looking forward to.
As you will all realise now, everything above is about bringing people together. Rekindling relationships. That’s what our State is all about.
Hang in there. We reminisce now, but we should also be planning. We all need this to look forward to and so do the many workers, businesses and industries that are counting on our ambition to get going again.
This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun on 30 August 2021.