2020 man. I actually mean hindsight being 2020, as well as the year. What I have learned and experienced this year by living in Australia instead of America has literally changed my entire pandemic experience. I had always planned to start my second working holiday visa at the beginning of this year. I landed in Sydney Jan 2020 with the COVID19 virus rumoring abroad. I synced up with MCI, who employed me the last time I was in Sydney and with a contract in place for March I ran to spend February in New Zealand.
Returning to Australia, I started working straight away, flying to events in Brisbane, Adelaide, with Hobart, Tasmania, and Melbourne pending. March 17 was our d-day. All events were canceled. All travel canceled. All of Australia stood still with each state denying all interstate travel. Naturally all international travel was suspended but end of March was the last chance to leave the country. Everyone was freaking out. Should we fly home or should we stay here for the height of the pandemic?
I laid out my options. I’d have no health care in America, no job in America, and likely nothing to do for who know’s how long, I made the decision to stay. My job hadn’t let me go yet so maybe I would be lucky. Again, hindsight being 2020 I made the right call.
Fast forward to December, where we can finally travel domestically, go to gigs, dance in pubs. How did we get here?? Australia is not just on the opposite side of the world from America, it also handled this pandemic entirely opposite.
Here are the events that stood out to me.
March to May – Everything shut down. Essential travel only. Federally mandated to require businesses to let people work from home if they have a job that can be done over a computer. Financial assistance given to every Australian of like $1700 every 2 weeks. Fees were waived for removing your money from your super account aka 401k, which is normally 65% taxed. Everyone flying into Australia from abroad was put up in a hotel at no cost to themselves for 14 days. You can’t travel farther than 20km from your home.
June – Every job you have is required legally to pay you 9.1% of your salary towards your super or 401k. Every job. You work a part time gig for 5 hours, they have to pay into your super. This means I had almost $5,000 that I could take out since I had pretty steady work from two visas. I put $0 towards this. $0. So Australia “gave me” $5,000 as a traveler to survive this pandemic and America gave me $1,200 as a citizen.
July – Since everyone can respect a law and not be a baby about staying at home, we were able to open up restaurants, bars, retail, etc in July. This is also when Melbourne had their crazy spike because of mismanagement of the quarantine in hotels. Also all public transportation was discounted by 50% during off peak time to incentives off peak travel. Public transportation schedules were never put to reduced schedules to make sure that commuters had space to socially distance. Contract tracing is required at every venue where guests sit down. There are time caps on how long you can stay in one place to allow for turn over. 50k travel limits are removed and regional travel is allowed again but you still can’t leave the state.
August to November – As Melbourne went back into intense lock down the rest of the 5 states just kept on living semi-normal life. We were slowly able to do more things, have more people in places, go to concerts if we were seated.
December – Australia is basically back in action. There’s loads of restrictions on businesses like contract tracing, COVID marshals in venues to confirm restrictions are being followed, hand sanitizer, etc. Most importantly, we are able to travel interstate again. Well we were for a month, until apparently some rich people were allowed to skip hotel quarantine and we had a small cluster in Sydney.
The government of Australia asked its citizens to follow these strict rules and in return only had 9 months of “restrictions”. Now I sit here in a country of 25 million people with less than 1000 deaths related to this virus. Financially, I was able to work all year as the government approved my request to work outside my 6 month restriction. I had affordable health care coverage should I get sick. I cannot even imagine what would have been my year if I was in America but I can tell you, in hindsight, I feel incredible lucky to be in the wonderful land of Oz especially as summer is here.