Mary-Ann O’Donovan, an academic from Dublin, left Ireland in September 2020 to become Associate Professor of Disability Studies and Executive Director of the Center for Disability Studies at the University of Sydney. The rules in Australia are set to change, but not until November, and changes are yet to be determined
The lockdown in Dublin in March 2019 was difficult, but I found the lockdown in Sydney much more difficult. With the appearance of the first recorded cases of Covid in Ireland in March 2019, we were given a new vocabulary in which we have all become fluent by watching daily updates, eliminating emerging research evidence and adapting to recommendations. changes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
We learned together and we adapted together. We have been keeping each other informed, dynamic and focused on solutions to this global pandemic. It was a community effort.
Walks along Sandymount Strand, Zoom parties, halfpipe swims on the Great Southern Wall in Dublin and a new love of bingo with the neighbors have helped me stay connected to people, place and place. world that was available in my department. The feeling of belonging that I felt was immense.
Leaving Ireland was not easy. In fact, the initial decision to leave was made before the pandemic, and even then I was torn. Did I really want to live on the other side of the world? Did I really feel I could leave my family and friends behind? The job opportunity that presented itself seemed too good to pass up, and my decision to go there, supported by my family and friends, was based on a number of factors. First, I didn’t want to regret not trying. Second, I would go home at least once, if not twice a year. (My employer was committed to covering the cost of one of these flights.) Third, I could be home within 24 hours for a family emergency or some other cause. Finally, if I didn’t like Sydney, I could go home. Knowing that I could just come home was a real comfort to me.
Maybe I was naive to think that coming home would be so easy. Despite being on the verge of a second wave of the virus, I still didn’t believe that next year I wouldn’t be going home. If I had known this, would I still have boarded this plane? It’s hard to say. I really do not know.
So I was there in August 2021, almost a year in my new life with a new job in a new city. Sydney is a great city with so much to offer and a great quality of life, and I love my job. In another lockdown halfway around the world, I found the experience so fundamentally different from my last year at home in Ireland. I am here on my own, although I have made some very good friends since I arrived.
I have also felt frustration and anger that Australia has fallen so far behind in a global pandemic. Did they learn lessons from the rest of the world? Was Australia, as a nation, willing to rely on other nations and learn from others or does the mantra of “our borders will protect us” mean that it is not necessary to look beyond them? The insularity here seemed so foreign to me.
There was little evidence of connection and support as a nation here. In Ireland there was a real sense of community. Here in Australia, we don’t feel like we’re in the same boat. In fact, Australia feels very separated from the rest of the world, just like its neighbor New Zealand, and there is a real sense of separation within the country.
There is massive inequity with the rollout of the vaccine, which has been slow here. The government bought only 4% of the population. The chronically negative attitude of the media and the federal government towards vaccines has led AstraZeneca to position itself as the vaccine of lesser importance compared to Pfizer. People refusing to take the AstraZeneca vaccine have further delayed the rollout of the vaccine.
People with disabilities and other groups considered most vulnerable and most in need of the vaccine were not prioritized as promised. Many still don’t know when they will get the vaccine, and there are outbreaks of Covid in nursing homes for people with disabilities. States refuse to help other states and will not share the vaccine supply. With politics driving this race for the survival of the fittest, it has been managed by yo-yo state border closures rather than a focus on what is right for society and its people as a whole. . Australians who wish to return home are stranded abroad with no indication of when they could return.
Additionally, Australian citizens in India were told they could not return as India was a Covid hotspot. If they try to enter the country, they will be imprisoned. I could never imagine Ireland treating its citizens this way.
The country has cut all international flights in half (but somehow celebrities and sportspeople seemed to enter and exit the country with ease). As a migrant here on a visa, I have to apply for a permit to leave the country and justify exceptional circumstances that force me to leave. Obtaining a permit could take months and various pieces of evidence were needed to justify leaving.
If I decide today that I want to leave and never come back, I can book my flight and go. However, I wish to come back, so I have to hang on. Many migrants in Australia are now faced with the dilemma “should I stay or should I go?” They are faced with tough decisions: if I go, am I going to leave my life in Australia if I go now. Many of us wonder if I want to live in a country with border policies which may mean that I will only see my family and friends every few years if I am lucky. Is this a viable reality?
I am proud of how family and friends have coped over the past 18 months and even more proud to see Ireland go through this pandemic the way it did. I can’t wait to get home. I don’t know when it will be, but I know deep in my heart that I’ll be home somehow.
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