Vaughn Bennison, VisAbility Tasmania Therapy Services Program Manager takes a heartfelt look at the year that was 2020.
For many of us, 2020 has represented a year of change. For some of us, 2020 has been a year of tragedy. For all of us, 2020 has been a year of discovery. Discovery of just how frail the human condition can be, and yet, just how strong we, as individuals and as a community can be.
With all of our technology, and our increasingly fast-paced lifestyle, our information super-highways and with so many things at our fingertips, it is frightening to discover how fragile society can be, and just how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye. This, we have seen in 2020 and we will not easily forget it.
Equally unforgettable has been the resilience demonstrated by our society, its members and leaders. We in Tasmania started the year watching, and mourning, as our mainland cousins were hit by savage and terrible bushfires. Many people lost their homes, several people lost their lives. And yet, who among us understood at that time what was to occur, just weeks ahead?
At that time, Coronavirus was just something we heard about on the news, or saw on television. It was someone else’s problem, we in Australia had enough to deal with. If only …
We had days notice, in March this year that we were to go into lockdown. Some reacted in panic, buying commodities in bulk, leaving others to go without. We were told only to leave our houses for urgent outings such as shopping, urgent medical visits and brief exercise outings. We were told that this was how we could do our bit to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. For three months we believed this and to a large extent, we were right. To date, Tasmania has had only 230 cases of COVID-19, representing 1.2 per cent of cases across the country.
But how many people stopped to think about the affect of a total lockdown on people who were already isolated? How many people considered that for thousands of people across Tasmania, this was potentially a devastating blow? How many people really understood that for people who are blind or vision impaired and who rely on support services for social connection, daily food, exercise and more, that a full lockdown could be a disaster? And how many of us considered the impact of physical distancing measures on blind and vision impaired people? People were abused for simply standing too close, physically manhandled and thrown out of premises because they could not see the signs or the marks on the floor.
I like to think, enough. I like to think these cases are a minority. I have seen a huge change in the way people look out for one another, and this has to be a positive change for us all.
It is impossible to fully understand the affect this year will have on the psyches of our Tasmanian community. We had developed confidence in our management strategies, our support services, our government and our society. It’s all changed now, but not necessarily for the worse.
This year has been one of great complexity for VisAbility Tasmania as well. We too had to rethink our strategies and how we would continue to provide our essential services to blind and vision impaired Tasmanians. We had to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in a way which was sustainable, meaningful and met the needs of our community, all the while taking into account changes within our community of interest, changes within our funding and changes with staff. And, we did.
This organisation, and the blind and vision impaired community in Tasmania have a lot to be proud of. Whether you are a staff member, a client, a partner or a supporter of VisAbility/Guide Dogs Tasmania, you deserve a pat on the back. I congratulate each and every member of staff, past and present, for your tireless efforts on behalf of Tasmanians who are blind or vision impaired, and on behalf of VisAbility/Guide Dogs Tasmania, I congratulate the Tasmanian community for rallying around, supporting each other, and doing everything possible to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
As we reach the end of this momentous year in our history, I encourage you to think about the year you’ve had. What have you learned from your experiences and the experiences of others? How have you grown and developed over the last year, and what can you do to contribute to your community next week, next month, or next year? Will you rally around to support vulnerable members of your community? Will you do the best you can to ensure that no one else falls through the cracks?
On behalf of all of us at VisAbility, I wish you all the best for your end of year celebrations. I hope the new year brings you and yours everything you could wish for, and I look forward to seeing the New Normal as it emerges out of 2020, and to changes we can make together in 2021.
Program Manager – Therapy Services TAS.
Our offices in Hobart and Launceston are closed from 12pm Thursday, 24th of December and will reopen, Monday 4th of January 2021 at 9am.
We wish you all a very happy holiday season and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.