Have you had a successful 2020?
You may find that a hard question to answer… or perhaps not. 2020 has truly been a year like no other for each and every one of us. We have had to live differently, work differently and connect with each other differently. We have all had to realign the way our lives work and the way we interact with others, and I daresay many of us will now be defining success — and perhaps wellbeing — in a different way than we would have back at the start of the year when COVID-19 was merely a problem for those a 12 hour flight away.
Many of us, including our Premier, define the success of our state as including both the good health of our people and the good health of a strong economy. These two elements are inextricably linked in our minds in ways they may not have been before these past 12 months.
Our physical and mental safety and wellbeing were at the forefront of our state’s and wider community response to the pandemic. And perhaps for the first time in decades, it was our collective wellbeing rather than the economy alone that drove our decision-making and was the yardstick by which to measure the effectiveness of our COVID-19 response.
That raises the question that changing times need us all to ask: how do we measure success?
Let’s consider it from a personal perspective: how do you measure your own personal success? Is it the level of your bank account alone or do you consider other measures like how healthy you are, the quality of your relationships and whether you get to do things you enjoy in life? And now that we’ve started thinking about it: how do you measure success for your family? For your children?
COVID-19 has taught us many lessons. The obvious: wearing the same pair of pyjama bottoms for three weeks’ straight probably isn’t a good idea. And the nugget of truth amidst the oddness of it all: as a society we function better when we place our people at the centre of everything we do and work together with a common purpose.
The fabric of our society, and indeed our economy, is built on people — the volunteer bus drivers ferrying people to health appointments, those on the frontline distributing emergency relief hampers to people in need, our domestic violence services providing timely, wrap-around support to those fleeing abusive homes during lockdown. Our ever-dependable essential workers stepped up to provide support and assistance to Tasmanians. We couldn’t have been in better hands.
It is our people which have seen us through this crisis. This network of services and support makes up our social infrastructure and is every bit as important as hard, physical infrastructure.
While there was undoubtedly suffering and hardship during COVID-19, I think we would all agree that the way the government, community service organisations, private business and the community as a whole banded together to reach out and support each other underpinned our state’s success in the face of extreme disruption.
It is TasCOSS’s view that we simply can’t afford to go back to business as usual, where a fifth of Tasmanian children start Year 7 below the national standard for reading, where Tasmania has higher rates of obesity than any other state or territory, and where too many Tasmanians don’t have the skills and qualifications needed to take up the jobs of the future.
In line with the times, we need to start measuring our success in terms of our people as well as the economy, just as I suspect you do for yourself and for your family.
Our response to the pandemic shows we are capable of doing this. So as we turn our minds and energy to rebuilding Tasmania, I urge you to think about ways we can keep the best of our crisis response — our collective action to care for those around us — and make it our new normal.