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Life under lockdown – the view from WA

Australia’s Golden State was swift in declaring a state of emergency as the coronavirus swept through the country. Perth resident Sharyn Ridley tells Carolynne Dear how ‘iso’ has affected her family.

Lucy, Sharyn, Jack and Dave Ridley enjoying time together in ‘iso’.

“The Western Australian (WA) government declared a state of emergency in March. Our state premier, Mark McGowan, wanted ‘an island within an island’ and the closure of the state border was quickly followed by the closing of regional borders.

“All non-essential businesses were shut and social distancing measures, including self-isolation and two weeks quarantine for anyone returning to the state, were put into place. Basically, we were asked to stay at home and do our bit for the community.

“When the lockdown was first introduced, it was devastating to see the fear of the unknown on people’s faces and to witness the panic buying and empty shelves in supermarkets and shopfronts shuttered. The impact on the community has been tough to watch. It’s also hard on a personal front; I’ve not been able to travel to see my parents and extended family as they are all in the southwest of the state.

“After initial worry about the extent of the crisis and how it would affect us, we settled into a routine. Family time is always precious, so it was lovely to get out the board games, read books, watch movies and exercise together. The children and I had recently relocated from Hong Kong to Perth and it was lovely to have my husband Dave home with us on extended leave. We’ve all discovered a love for mountain biking, which has been a great escape. After a fast and furious 20 years living in Hong Kong and then a huge international move, it’s been a welcome change of pace.

“On the downside, lack of social interaction has been the biggest issue for my 15-year-old daughter. But she’s been happy to use House Party and social media to stay in touch with her friends. X-Box has made a big comeback for my son and we’ve found it’s been a good way for him to catch up with his mates. We often find him laughing with his buddies from around the globe.

“The immediate slowing down has been welcome and we have all taken the time to catch a breath and be grateful for everything that we have.

“However, there have been moments of cabin fever. Walking the dog and gardening seem to have been the key to escaping the house. Luckily we live close to some beautiful parks and have one of the world’s best beaches on our doorstep. The weather has been gorgeous over the last six months which has also made ‘iso’ more bearable.

“We decided to start homeschooling the children the week before schools closed. Both of the children’s schools were quick to organise home learning which made the transition smooth and stress-free. We’re grateful for the swift action and information provided by both the schools and the government.

“Lucy and Jack were quick to set themselves up in their home classrooms and were independent with their online learning. To be honest, although they missed their friends, they were happy to be working from home and were very productive. We were prepared to homeschool for term two (term two in Australia runs from the Easter break until July) but thankfully schools have now opened in the state. Unless there are new cases, we’ll continue to send them to school.”

“For me, the move back to Australia at the beginning of the year was well-timed. It’s been a shame not to be able to meet up with friends, but I have enjoyed being forced to stay home and unpack and organise. Our garden has been transformed – thankfully the garden centres and hardware shops have remained open and are doing a roaring trade.

“As an artist, I thought I would have time to be productive in my studio, but the last three months have flown by in a fury of cooking, cleaning and gardening!

“Looking forward, it’s been reassuring to have some restrictions eased over the last week. Today (May 7) WA has had a whole week of no new infections and just 14 active cases. We’re now allowed to congregate in groups of ten and shops are slowly starting to reopen. The return of school has had a positive impact on the community. All being well, we’re hoping to see most local businesses reopen soon.

“I think our prime minister was quick to act putting lockdown measures into place, as was the WA government. Our premier has remained vigilant and kept everyone informed of progress and explained why measures were implemented. The Australian public also deserves a mention for its understanding and compliance.

“Our family dinner table discussions always turn to travel. It looks like the WA government will be keeping the regional borders closed until the mid-year holidays and the state border will remain closed for a few more months after that. So we’ll be holidaying in WA for the foreseeable future, which is not exactly a hardship.

“We’ve had two family gatherings cancelled due to the restrictions. Our great grandmother’s 90th in Victoria will hopefully be celebrated later in the year and my nephew’s wedding plans have had to be cancelled until 2021.

“There will be so many reasons to celebrate when this is over.”


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