A Sad State of Affairs
(This article was originally published in the Herald Sun on October 10 2020)
I am really missing home, especially my Mum. I miss my Melbourne; the way it was before this mess. I even miss my office and all the meetings I used to have. And I sure miss singing and connecting with audiences.
My husband and I came to NSW for a short holiday in June and here we still are, working and Zooming. Where we are, you’d never know there was a virus. People go about their lives. They go to school, bands and the beach and have friends over for parties, BBQs and dinner. It reminds me how much I miss sharing happy times with friends and community.
However, Victoria is in a sad state. Every time we have thought about going home, something bizarre happens. We wonder, how long can this go on? When will the dam burst?
First it was the extended lockdowns and closing offices and schools; then the crazy curfew and de facto house arrest, which for many solo people was solitary confinement. Along with the arbitrary five-kilometre rule and shopping for groceries on your own. We see powerful but disregarded pleas from doctors saying harms and other health issues created by the lockdowns and trampling of human rights are significantly worse than harms caused by the virus. Why isn’t anybody listening? Why are there not more objections?
So here we still are, in exile.
I speak to family, friends, clients and colleagues daily. I am weighed down by their grief, anger and frustration. People are becoming more desperate and stir-crazy by the day.
We run a mental health charity and receive multiple calls and emails each day from anxious parents with young children so traumatised they refuse to eat or speak, let alone participate in online learning. Some of them are being medicated with anti-depressants, an inappropriate treatment for children that can cause long-term cognitive impairment and changes.
Other parents confide their teenagers are staying locked in their rooms and have lost their zest for life, confidence and hope for the future. They feel disengaged from friends, teachers and the community. Then there are parents who have kids in their twenties who are worried sick because their child is suicidal as a result of being locked up for so many hours a day, either with their parents or living on their own, unable to go to work or university.
There are two unrelated women whose husbands attempted suicide over the past weeks, and another whose husband tried to kill her because he’d lost his job and got drunk.
We speak with parents who have taken their children and pets and left Victoria for good. I know of many more who will be leaving soon. They do not feel that Victoria offers a safe and healthy environment for their family anymore.
Many fellow entrepreneurs who found Melbourne a great place for starting up a business and an innovation hub have left interstate or soon will be. Those States will win, because it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to operate or start a business in Victoria any time soon.
Adding insult to injury is the now infamous COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020, allowing bureaucrats to empower civilians with police-style powers. This week the Andrews government bowed to pressure, including from top QCs and retired judges, to remove the powers of “authorised officers” to detain, but has not yet removed provisions creating these de facto Witchfinders-General.
Who would want to go home to this?
Dean of Law at Swinburne University, Mirko Bagaric, has said: “The rule of law in Victoria is broken”. It appears anyone who even dares question the Government’s disproportionate pandemic measures risks punishment. Yet it is the Government who botched hotel quarantine causing this deplorable mess. So far, the Government’s reaction largely has been blunt and brutal, with terrible social and economic results. If you have a sore thumb, cutting off the hand gets rid of the thumb but damages you for life.
We should start fining politicians and public servants every time they contradict, lie and obfuscate. Those funds could compensate unnecessary abuse and trauma caused to people like pregnant mother Zoe Buhler, arrested and handcuffed by three police officers in her home in front of her two infant children and charged with incitement, not because she had actually breached any health regulations, but merely because she expressed her sympathy on Facebook for an anti-lockdown protest.
What’s happening in Victoria affects the whole nation. Victoria is 23 per cent of Australia’s economy (becoming less), and Victorians are 26 per cent of Australia’s population. Every Australian is paying for Victoria’s personal, social and economic damage, and will be paying for years to come.
What is to become of our sad and depressed State? Now the number of Covid cases are so low we need to recreate our magnificent, vibrant pre-pandemic Melbourne and give people their lives back. Daniel Andrews’s Victoria today certainly is a sad State of affairs. Why is Victoria so different to the other States where lives go on?
I’d really like to return home one day soon, before it’s too late.
Tania de Jong AM is a social entrepreneur and soprano and Founder of Mind Medicine Australia and Creativity Australia. She is passionate about mental health, innovation, diversity and inclusion.
How Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Changed My Life
From Singing to Psilocybin
I don’t drink or smoke. I’ve never taken any drugs till four years ago. Yet today, my life revolves around psychedelic medicines — heavily stigmatized substances still illegal in this country and most others across the world.
How did this happen?
This Is Not Australia
The Seekers’ much-loved chorus lyrics for the iconic song ‘I am Australian’ are:
“We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice
I am, you are, we are Australian.”
This song symbolises a nation whose people, history, culture and landscape are deeply intertwined. It is a song that celebrates both Australia’s diversity and its unity.
My Magic Medicine Journey
I want to start with a snapshot of how I’m probably different from you and a lot of other people.
I don’t smoke. I haven’t been drunk, ever, nor do I really drink alcohol. Before this chapter of my life began, I’d never taken any drugs apart from those prescribed to me by a doctor. I live in Melbourne and I don’t even drink coffee.
Yet today, my life revolves around psychedelics — heavily stigmatized substances still illegal in this country and most others across the world.
I get it. This huge shift is likely confusing to you and it’s one I’d like to outline here in the hope it provides a deeper understanding of why I co-founded Mind Medicine Australia (MMA).
There is no health without mental health
In Australia’s reaction to COVID-19, our lives are being changed profoundly and our liberties curtailed. Without consultation, by federal, state and territory governments. Few have yet fully grasped the gravity of the effects on our wellbeing of this, and what is still to come.
Focusing on saving lives and livelihoods isn’t wrong. But there is no truly good health without good mental health, and given humans are social beings, for most people good mental health requires positive social interaction and hope. Our mobility, work, education, recreation, exercise and, most importantly, our interaction with others is being restricted by authorities. We have to follow the regulations or we face being punished for disobeying them. Right now, it feels as if our careers, dreams and futures are vanishing in front of our eyes.
We need an urgent taskforce to tackle the mental health pandemic sparked by Covid-19
Mental health charity Mind Medicine Australia (MMA) calls for and strongly supports all recommendations to form a Mental Health Innovation Taskforce to be immediately established. This must be established now to guide the government in planning the next steps to manage the increasing mental health pandemic triggered by Covid-19 and the recent bushfires tragedy.
We live in one of the wealthiest countries and we have one of the best medical systems in the World. Yet despite the high calibre of our medical practitioners, and the enormous associated system costs, we also have one of the highest rates of mental illness in the World. These rates are increasing exponentially now.
Experts warn that a long-term mental health pandemic is looming in Australia that will potentially surpass the physical health impacts of the coronavirus. Frontline charities are suggesting that the effects of the current pandemic on mental illness could be “seven times” worse than the spike in mental illness caused by the recent bushfires.
Positive Human Collisions
I work with many wonderful teams and organisations and am always amazed at how many leaders say, “But I am not creative.”
And recently, some futurists said that creativity has become the most endangered species of the 21st century. We have a broadband culture but not the creative, original thought to fill it.
A global study of 1,500 CEOs by IBM showed that in an increasingly complex and uncertain global environment the most important leadership attribute is creativity. We need to be ready to pivot in a rapidly changing world to manage increasing social and economic challenges.
Over the next decade it is estimated that up to 40 per cent of companies on the Standard and Poors index will be disrupted by rapidly advancing technologies and the entrepreneurs adapting quickly to this new environment. According to international research, up to 60 percent of middle-class jobs will become redundant due to robotics and new technologies. And some jobs will continue to exist but will be performed in cheaper labour markets overseas.
We urgently need to train ourselves and emerging leaders to be entrepreneurs: makers and creators of the jobs of the future. We need to build a culture of creativity and innovation to sufficiently develop our capabilities to turn ideas into enterprises.
Below are 12 innovator attributes which we can learn and aspire to and nurture in others:
- Curious: Innovators actively explore the environment, challenge status quo and investigate new possibilities. Ask: “what if…?”
- Persistent: Innovators are never above a task, they are hardworking, persistent and willing to do “whatever-it-takes” to get things done. Never give up!
Inclusion and entrepreneurship the key to innovation
Australia has traditionally been a highly successful and prosperous nation. On almost every important business index, we are accelerating. The stakes – the financial, social, environmental and political consequences – similarly are rising. Being lucky is no longer enough
We lag well behind many other nations on innovation. We have to nurture our entrepreneurs and innovate faster in order keep up with the pace of growth. To compete globally we must welcome, include and empower the many diverse voices of our citizens, migrants and the refugees who are seeking a haven here.
Australia needs diversity to keep the creative juices flowing
Australia has traditionally been a highly successful and prosperous nation. On almost every important business index, we are accelerating. But the stakes – the financial, social, environmental and political consequences – are also rising. Being lucky is no longer enough.
We lag well behind many other nations on innovation. We have to nurture our entrepreneurs and innovate faster in order keep up with the pace of growth. To compete globally we must welcome, include and empower the many diverse voices of our citizens, migrants and the refugees who are seeking haven here.