The only problem, is that it begins at 8 am and at the moment dawn is 7am. It’s a tall order for a retired person to get into town by 8 am – and in a reasonable state. I managed that this morning and was richly rewarded with a very interesting discussion between three authors and journalist. The discussion centred around the issue of aged care in Australia and the Royal Commission that has tendered its final report to the government.
Australia has an ageing population and, without counting immigration, has a declining population. The government must now consider taking on board the 148 wider-ranging recommendations that are contained in this commission, and this is while the level of public funds being thrown at the age care sector is considerable. (2017–18, the Australian Government spent over $18 billion on aged care). This afternoon, our government announced that another 452 million aud will be spent in this sector. They are printing lots of money.
In two years of hearings, the Commission was presented with countless confronting cases of abuse and neglect in aged care facilities. Something radical had to be done to improve the services provided.
On top of this, there are a hundred thousand people on the waiting list for a package for their age care needs. The top package is valued at 52,000 aud.
I then went to the first session of the day of our Adelaide Writers’ Festival.
We finished the 2020 Festival just before the first lockdown of last year. So, we are delighted that the 2021 Festival is open.
There are two sessions, running concurrently, from 9.30 till 6.15pm, every hour and a quarter. They take place under East and West ‘tents’ – really shades slung under the many trees of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.
The first session was an interview with Louise Milligan, an investigative reporter for the ABC TV program Four Corners, on the subject of her book, ‘Witness’, an investigation into the brutal cost of seeking justice for victims – mainly of sexual abuse. There is a problem with our system for complainants of sexual crimes. Louise explained how harrowing it is for victims to ask for justice from our system, how the victims are belittled and suffer long term damage psychologically from the process. Many victims suicide. There are lifelong consequences of these crimes.
August 14. More and more it feels as if South Australia is on the edge of the second wave of Covid-19. All states in Australia are trying to protect themselves from one another. The virus has well and truly escaped into the communities of our neighbouring state of Victoria. Each day, we anxiously watch an update from an increasingly harassed Premier Daniel Andrews as he announces the numbers of people newly infected and the numbers dead. The breakout started in late May and reached a daily maximum of well over 700 new infections. On 3 August, Andrews announced ‘a state of disaster’. A Stage 4 lockdown applies to greater Melbourne, Stage 3 throughout the state. There is a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am in Melbourne and people are limited to essential travel. Police monitor intersections day and night.
The streets are empty. Yet it is taking time for the numbers to reflect the severe shut down – the latest news is 372 new cases. And of course, the death toll will increase before it drops. Daily we watch the NUMBERS: Victoria has 7,877 active cases; 289 have died; 1.9 million tested. The population of Melbourne is 4.936 million and Victoria 6.359 million. NSW authorities are frantically trying to control isolated outbreaks in Sydney.
Our South Australian / Victorian border is shut and it is being carefully monitored. Fewer and fewer exemptions are being allowed – only essential and specialist workers; students in year 11 and 12 whose properties are bisected by the border, will be allowed to cross. Within South Australia, our state government is reversing previous relaxations. For example, licensed cafes, gyms and places of worship will have to have a ‘Covid Marshall’ in place to enforce social distancing and hygiene practices.
From the South Australian point of view, our borders to the Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and West Australia (WA) are open but not the ACT (Canberra). BUT Tasmania requires us to quarantine for 14 days and WA will not let South Australians in. Effectively, we can travel to the NT (by road or air) and Queensland (by air only). I hope I have this right! It’s complicated and can change overnight.
Victorian aged care facilities have experienced distressing outbreaks (1 in 4 homes infected) and most of the state’s deaths relate to these facilities. As a result, South Australia authorities now require all staff in our residential homes to wear personal protective equipment when within 1.5 m of patients. And most important, their staff will not be allowed to work across multiple facilities. This appears to have been a factor in the outbreaks in Victoria.
Overnight a 20-year-old died in Melbourne. I listened on the radio to a specialist in the UK who recounted his concern about the side-effects of COVID-19. He said that we are underestimating the virus’s long-term effects. He called it the ‘long’ COVID. More and more reports are being documented. It is a mistake to consider COVID-19 a disease that only threatens those of us deemed ‘aged’.
In South Australia, we have had very few cases in the last weeks. Overnight, one case was recorded: an Australian citizen returning from India. He or she was in quarantine. Each day I wonder if we will still manage to keep to these low numbers. Across the Tasman Sea, in New Zealand, they have developed a serious cluster in Auckland. (Just when they were feeling rather pleased with their achievements with 100 virus free days.) They are now struggling to find the source and we hear that it is a ‘new’ strain. Prime Minister Jacinta Arden has put in place a Level 3 shut down. She has said they must ‘go in early and go in hard’ (once more) to stop the spread.
Whereas a few weeks ago, there was a discussion about the possibility of having a travel ‘bubble’ with New Zealand, now that is a remote possibility. Our Australian tourist sector remains severely impacted.
Some good news! Travel within South Australia is picking up. Our friends are making short trips across to the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas or down to the Southeast. We are also able to travel to the Northern Territory. From August 30, South Australians can take a trip on the famous Ghan railway up to Darwin.
We ourselves are preparing for a trip to the Flinders Ranges. A great deal of organisation has gone into this trip and a lot of excitement is evident. Beyond normal. There will be about 20 in this group from our local field geology club. The idea is to visit some remote stations in the Flinders Ranges. Before we go, we have to complete a health statement.
I anticipate cold, dry weather. One of the stations we are visiting, 625 kms north of us, is Witchelina. They have received 11 mils of rain recently – not even half an inch. A virtual flood! It is the most they have received in the last year. The station is 4,200 square kms in size (one fifth the size of Wales) and is managed by the Nature Foundation.
We will pass through a deserted town called Farina. Farina was established in 1878 during a period of greater rainfall, when a railway expansion took place. Some colonialists had a belief that “the rain followed the plough”. Instead, what followed was seven years of drought and all the farmers and residents gave up. It is now a ghost town and a tourist attraction for the few that travel this far into the Outback. And it’s a warning for all those who are over optimistic about South Australia’s rainfall.
Farina is being partly restored as a tourist attraction. There is an ANZAC memorial in the town to the 33 men, born in Farina, who volunteered in the First World War. (Most Aussie towns have an ANZAC memorial).
I fear that we will be seeing Farina in the kind of state it was when the first residents gave up hope of their continued survival. But … we are still excited, drought or no drought, virus or no virus.