We are living in extraordinary times

COVID-19 will have a profound and lasting impact

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Opinion | The Gauge columnist Gillian Fennell hopes the current crisis will bring Australian's together.

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Cattle producer Gillian Fennell.

Cattle producer Gillian Fennell.

Opinion | The Gauge

We are certainly living in extraordinary times. Perhaps not unprecedented, as much of our media would have us believe - after all, the Spanish Flu or pneumonic influenza, as it was known in Australia, wreaked havoc across the globe at the end of the First World War and killed more than 50 million people worldwide, second only to the 'Black Death' plague pandemic in overall mortality rates.

But in our modern age, where we live such connected lives and our national prosperity depends so much on the business of exporting and importing, a disease such as COVID-19 will have profound and lasting impacts on life as we know it. And hopefully, some changes will be for the better.

For many of us in the more remote areas of Australia, many of the measures being implemented to help curb the spread of this disease are already part of day-to-day lives, staying home, restricting contact with others and keeping kids away from school. It both amuses and mystifies us that our urban counterparts can find such basic tasks to be so onerous. We who live in the bush already shop in bulk and keep a ready supply of basics (like flour, toilet paper and tinned veg) on hand. Our freezers are fully stocked and should we need to replenish our stocks of meat, we simply head to the paddock and fetch some more. That our city-bound cousins find this self-sufficiency so hard to comprehend is not only shocking to us, it's also a little sad.

How much of our self-reliant, independent nature, those core 'Aussie' traits been lost to many? How many didn't realise just how good they had it, until it was well and truly gone?

I can only hope that this current crisis will serve to bring us all together as Australians. That we can gain a new appreciation of the hardships that are faced by many, and that when people are impacted by circumstances beyond their control, that showing compassion and solidarity is far better than throwing blame and accusations.

Organisations such as the ICPA (Isolated Children's and Parent's Association) have released a series of free video tutorials for those beginning their learning at home experience and workers across the agricultural supply chain continue to show up every day to ensure that fresh food is available in supermarkets across Australia. I hope that these efforts are acknowledged when this current crisis is done. Not by the people who show support every time they buy our products or donate to support families hit hard by natural disasters, but by those who are quick to blame us for every drought, fire and flood. Those who believe that it's our cows to blame for climate change and those who believe that we should be able to buy our way out of a run of bad seasons, and those who think that if we just grew hemp instead of cotton, all our environmental woes would be solved.

We don't need to be thanked for doing our job. What we do need is strong policy that allows us to continue to produce world class food and fibre, the support of the consumers of Australia at the checkout and the autonomy to operate our businesses with what are arguably the best environmental and animal welfare outcomes in the world.

And in return, farmers will continue to plan for the future - plant next seasons' crops and raise the next generation of roasts and mince, to make sure the nation is fed, well into the future, because whatever else may happen in the future, we are working to ensure Australia and the world won't go hungry.

- Gillian Fennell lives with her family on a remote beef property in outback South Australia. You can follow Gillian on Twitter @stationmum101

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