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Reflections from within the Pandemic

May 28, 2020

2020 was supposed to be the start of a wonderful new decade. A decade of hope and promise. A decade where change was imminent. But no one expected the kind of change we have been handed collectively.

Given the situation humanity now finds itself, in what does it mean and what lessons can we extract from the experience to enable a better humanity to arise?

A “culture shift” is staring us in the face. Creating a culture of compassion, kindness, acceptance of differences, generosity and greater mutual international respect would be a calling worth pursuing at this time. What about the idea of just “choosing to give”? Some of our most vulnerable on the planet, the refugees, our African neighbours, our Indigenous peoples and those in war-torn countries where much of the destruction have been caused by the first world ethos... greed, power, money and domination.

For too long we have watched these countries struggling yet, we persist in reducing our international financial obligation. We have the capacity to dispatch health, education, construction, military and welfare personnel yet choose not to do it. We have wealthy churches who profess to follow Christ who keep the wealth within the church when they could choose to share the wealth out to these countries. Globally, collectively, we have chosen not to share our wealth.

If the pandemic helps us to make better choices by helping our fellow man then that would create a universal state of happiness, joy and love would it not? As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.

ECONOMIC GENEROSITY

Instead of funding arms and weapons why can we not fund our most vulnerable? Why can’t we fund programs for better housing, education and the most glaring one at this time health care? Here at home, our Indigenous communities deserve more investment, care and resources to support their health, education and employment prospects. It’s a choice the government just will not make, and that is to put our tax dollars to invest in our amazing Indigenous communities that enrich and colour our world with culture, spirituality, art, food and a culture like nowhere else in the world.

Imagine being able to provide all of humanity with food so that no one is left behind; so that no one is left to starve. This is possible. Again, it is about the choice’s governments make to serve their interests over the interest of humanity and the greater good.

Angela Merkle has shown true leadership in welcoming refugees, and during the crisis, taking over 1500 who were stuck in refugee camps, and actively reducing the risk of Corona Virus within the refugee camps. If every first world country carried out this small act of kindness, then the risk of the pandemic spreading to the camps would be reduced.

Investing in these refugees and assisting them to resettle in a supported way benefits not just them but the community and country as well. Allowing the goodness of humanity to shine through, just maybe one of those people if educated and provided opportunity, like every child in the first world takes for granted, perhaps they may be the ones to find the cure to many of our challenging diseases. Perhaps they will find ways to manage waste and water more effectively or find better engineering solutions that are cost-effective and sustainable. How exciting would it be for a world that works for all and not just for the few pulling the strings at the top!

SUSTAINABLE PROGRAMS AND CLIMATE JUSTICE

Investing in renewable, solar and battery storage projects will reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impact of our other impending environmental pandemic, climate change.

In Australia, our climate has warmed by one degree and we are heading towards two degrees of warming very quickly. As a result, we've seen increases in the frequency of extreme heat events, and a decrease in rainfall, impacting our farmers, and food productivity and quality. Adding to this Australia has had the worst fire season in history and yet Governments still choose to invest in the fossil fuel industry.

The oceans around us continue to warm as they absorb the excesses of carbon dioxide polluting our atmosphere and the resulting increases in acidity causes untold damage to our marine life. Again, it’s about the choices governments make in how money is directed.

What if governments truly invested in long term sustainable energy projects where the general public can save money on their power bills utilising our God-given natural resources? Imagine how much cleaner our environment would be? Imagine how people will be able to use power guilt-free without counting the cost. Imagine the long-term sustainable benefits for all people, not just those that can afford it.

This excites me and drives me into the political arena to speak about changing the old system that serves the privileged dare I say “old white man” world. For too long they have chosen for me and many many women and children, on what they think we deserve. We have never had a good say on what women and children truly deserve as we evolve and take our place in society.

It is time for us women, all women of differing colour and culture to speak up for themselves and their children, to have a say in creating a better system where society is truly generous, kind and compassionate. A world free of male violence and misogyny. A world where women and children are valued just as much as men. A world where women are provided opportunities to use their talents and given the honour they deserve for their efforts. A world where children and our youth are provided with free education and health care; and tax breaks don’t just benefit those that vote for them.

A world where Governments listen to our young climate hero’s and action their requests. A world that has more meaning than how many houses or cars you have. A world where what matters are your values and how you made a difference to society. A world where kindness and compassion are the mainstays of our very existence. Call me a dreamer but I know I am not the only one!

HEALTH FOR ALL

Now we have the Covid-19 pandemic on our hands it is timely to look at the health system, the way it is funded, how it is resourced and the outcomes it provides.

If health care is to be properly provided to all people equally, we need to recognise the different types of people in society first. We have the elderly, children, people with a disability, First Nations people, vulnerable people who are homeless, refugees, people with long term chronic diseases and with poor health outcomes due to mental health or drug and alcohol addictions.

It's not one size fits all when it comes to health. Each person and group cohort have different needs and require different resources. The health system's job is to recognise this and communicate to the government what is required to produce outcomes that benefit each group. Governments then need to fund each cohort in such a way that quality of life outcomes is guaranteed.

This is not a numbers game based on data. It’s about the person, their story, their life and helping them get back on track. It's about humane end of life planning, providing adequate medication, staff and resources to ensure their dignity. It’s not about life at any cost. It’s about care, compassion, choices and dignity along the health journey.

Sadly, what I have observed as a nurse for over 30 years is discrimination in the system especially toward our First Nations people and our most vulnerable. Most of my colleagues are amazing humanitarians giving their heart and soul to their profession, but the nonsense of poor staffing levels, poor pay and putting up with outdated resources and equipment needs to stop.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that investment in health and our hospitals is necessary and I must say the preparedness I have observed over the past few months is outstanding. The pressure this pandemic has put on the government to provide the equipment and resources so that staff can effectively do their work has been unprecedented. The only thing left to do is pay the nurses what they are worth not what the government think they are worth, because saving lives is worth far more than a footy player can offer at times of crisis... Just saying!

In Primary Health our doctors and nurses have sourced their own PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) from Bunnings… of all places, at the start of the pandemic. It took several weeks before the governments put any real money into providing PPE to our health workers. I can say now after speaking to my colleagues that there is a good amount of equipment for them now.

Again, pressure from the grassroots health professionals was able to influence the politicians to allocate money where it mattered. If they can do this now, then they can do it always. This pandemic has shown me that health has a great deal of influence in fostering systemic change. I just hope that when the dust settles that we never go back to what was. I hope that the systemic rot, the cancerous political core will listen to the people that matter most!!

Nina Digiglio is a Parkinson’s Specialist Nurse Consultant and a Shoalhaven City Councillor.

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