Australia – Adele Dang
My name is Adele Dang, I am currently in Year 10 going on to 11 next year. I go to Meriden which is a private Anglican High School in Strathfield, Sydney. We’ve been at school since term two week three, so since May. We shut down March as well but we didn’t shut down for long. We just stayed at home for the last week of school. And then we had a three week holiday. Then we stayed home again for the first two or three weeks, and then we went straight back to school, physical face to face. We have four terms in a year and two or three week holiday breaks in between; we have our summer break for six or seven weeks.
I kind of miss online learning. It was very chill. There wasn’t any commute time and a lot of extracurricular activities got canceled. There was no stress, and the classes were a lot chiller because a lot of teachers couldn’t do as much as they wanted to, especially for gym class. We just did workouts at home.
I think for a lot of subjects, there was not a lot of homework. It was very much just do whatever you can during the lessons. Math is pretty okay because our teacher is very tech savvy. She just projected her notepad on the screen, and we just followed along with our booklet; she had booklets and we just printed them out. For English, we didn’t really do much because we were doing a film study. So our teacher shared the screen with the movie. I can’t say that it was much different; I think our teachers got pretty used to online learning, but it’s just I think we had less homework.
Since there were less cases and the restrictions seemed to be working out, they didn’t want students to be home for any longer than they needed to be. So they slowly integrated. First it was a Year 12s that went back to school because they had their HSC (Higher School Certificate test) coming up, and they had to study. It’s like SATs in America, the end-of-high-school exams that determined your marks. You need as much time as possible to study before the HSC.
Personally, I really took online learning as a time to rest and to appreciate life without any of its stress. For me, especially in Australia, there really aren’t that many cases aside from Melbourne and the whole Victoria (state in Australia) breakout. It’s really not been affecting anyone because the community transmissions are basically zero. It’s something that’s really routine now, we’ve gotten used to wearing masks in public transport and signing in. We’re not really scared of COVID anymore, especially in my school. But I think it’s just our premiere and the fact that we’re a really small country, we don’t have that many citizens. And especially with the tourism industry, we really want to get our economy working again. We really support our small businesses, and we don’t want to see them have to suffer any more than they already have. I think because we’re very community minded, that’s just been why we’re doing what we’re doing, why we’ve tried to follow the rules as much as possible.
There are still restrictions, especially with border restrictions, because Melbourne (city in Australia) had the cases, and Queensland (Australian state) was really strict about border control. But I think that’s been solved now, the borders are pretty much open. But there aren’t that many restrictions here in New South Wales (Australian state). It’s pretty normal now. You don’t have to wear masks but people choose to. And you have to sign in when you go to restaurants with an app to register if you’ve been there so they can do COVID tracking. It’s like a QR code and you scan it with your phone. You put your name and your details so that if there were a case to come up at that restaurant, they can track who was there at what time to see if you were a close contact. You have to use it; restaurants can get fined if they don’t have the QR code. Every business has to have this QR code. It’s New South Wales’ health guidelines.
I’ve gone out and tried to shop. My family has this restaurant that we really like. We go there quite often now just to try to support it and help boost the economy. Australians love eating out. It’s the holidays now and, all the time, our friends are just like, “You want to go out eat?” and I’m like “Yeah, okay, let’s just go.” We just love eating out.
And our tourism industry was taking a big hit because Australians rely on Chinese tourists especially. And because COVID started in China, we lost a lot of our tourism, we lost a lot of the money coming in from overseas tourists, especially at the start of lockdown. And now coming into the summer holidays, the government is really pushing traveling interstate. For example, if you’re from New South Wales, you can go to Western Australia or Queensland to support the tourism industry there. To be honest, Australians, we don’t really like going to different states unless it’s to visit family. So the government’s really trying to push that to help boost the tourism industry.
But then Melbourne had a second wave. Melbourne was in lockdown for quite a while because after the issue with transmission with hotel workers. That was called the second wave because I guess Melbourne wasn’t really careful with how they handled COVID. Since they had locked down in Melbourne, no one could go anywhere with the border restrictions. It was probably the strictest lockdown we’ve had in Australia. Australia never went into a lock down like New Zealand; New Zealand went to a stage of lockdown where they just could not leave the house whatsoever. We never had that in New South Wales, but I think Melbourne might have had it, not too sure. I know they definitely did have stricter lockdown rules and restrictions than New South Wales ever had. We pretty much never had a second wave. We’ve kind of been at 10 cases and now zero and then just some people popping up with COVID. But yeah, we really haven’t experienced a second wave in New South Wales to be specific. In Victoria and Melbourne, they had a second wave, but it’s ended now so that’s pretty good.
We still have restrictions on how many people can be at weddings, outside gatherings, inside gatherings and things like that. Those are mainly our only restrictions now. At my school, we have assemblies and chapels every week because we’re a Christian school. Every Wednesday, we have time where the sermon happens. Since we can’t have the whole school together, we have some grades in classrooms and we have some on live stream. But we do have 100-200 people in the hall physically watching the chaplain do the sermon. We’re all sitting with one seat in between and that’s it.
Some teachers who didn’t have kids that really needed urgent care would be at school. But for example, my Latin teacher, he has a five year old daughter, so he taught from home. But our principal and things like that, they were all at school.
Our school is pretty good with dealing with COVID. Every day we go to school, we have to use hand sanitizer first thing when we come in. We have the coaches who stand at the gates and all the entries with hand sanitizer to make sure that you have hand sanitizer on. Literally like a guardian at the gate. Other than that we have our assemblies and chapels now split. That’s the main thing that’s really changed because of social distancing. Other than that, our classes are normal, we’ve done everything normally. I think around term two, right after we came back from online learning, we had this thing where we no longer had to bring our gym stuff to school; we could just come to school wearing it. Usually, we don’t do that. Usually, we have to get changed in the locker rooms. But because locker rooms are really cramped and they didn’t want to increase the chance of spreading COVID, we got to come to school in a regular PE uniform and stay like that for the whole day. Now it’s been reversed; we have to bring our stuff to school and then get changed and get back into our normal uniform.
I also do debating at my school, and usually what happens is that we’ll either travel to one of the other teams’ school or they come to us. But because of COVID, we had to use Zoom instead to debate. It was different, but it was surprisingly better because it reduced a lot of the stress and anxiety that came with having the opposing team right there. We were the runners up to the debating competition. We managed to go undefeated for our preliminary rounds, and then we just narrowly lost in the Grand Finals. In previous years, we did not do really well in the whole spiel of the thing. So I think, because we were actually on Zoom, it reduced a lot of the stress and it made it easier to debate. COVID actually helped us gain our confidence when it came to debating, which I guess is a positive to COVID if you really want to call it that. I don’t know if there’s different types of debating but this is the debate I’ve always known: It’s where you have four speakers. We have the first speaker affirmative. And then first speaker negative, second speaker and second speaker, third speaker and third speaker, and then it ends there. The fourth speaker is just there to give thank you speeches and support the team, but they don’t actually say anything during the whole scope of the debate.
Our team had one laptop and the other team had one laptop and then if you had to speak, you just stood up and spoke. We had the adjudicator as another member of the call. We would sit back with all four desks so the camera captures all four of us. And then we would have a desk in front of us, because we like to stand when we speak, we like to have our papers laid out. So we would have the four desks, and then the one desk in the middle, and then we go up to the desk when we have to speak and sit back down. That was reciprocated on the other team as well.
In mock trial, we had to use zoom as well. The first mock trial round, we actually got to do it physically because the school we did it with was very close to our own school. But then, we ended up having to cancel the other schools that we were supposed to do it with because of the distance. One of the schools that we were supposed to do it with was right on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. They had some students from New South Wales, some students from Queensland, and then it just couldn’t work out because they could no longer cross the border to get into the school. The border’s closed. So that school forfeited. It was very difficult because a lot of schools that we got paired up with were long distance schools. And it just became really difficult to find times to do an actual Zoom call.
The borders have been open now, but before Queensland had really, really strict border control and that was always a subject of debate. The two premiers were always constantly fighting over the two borders. That was a really big issue for Australian politics. I remember this one incident on the news, there was this mother who was going to give birth to twins and the nearest hospital was in Queensland, but she ended up having to travel down to the hospital in New South Wales. I think she actually had a miscarriage since she couldn’t go over the border because of how strict the guidelines were of who you had to be to cross. The premiere there just had ridiculous checkpoints you had to meet. She’s like, “If New South Wales has 28 days with zero cases, then I can open the borders.” But it’s not feasible if COVID was still present in Australia back then. It was just a huge thing, I think, about pride. Both the premiers of New South Wales and Queensland were female, so it’s something about female politics. It was a big mess. But now that’s been solved.
I just hope that a vaccine will come soon. Next year, I really hope that everything can be resolved, borders will be opened again for everyone, the international travel will reopen again so I can visit my family overseas. I really hope that our economy starts working again, I really hope that we can forget about COVID, just move on from it. It’s good that we can still implement some of the things that we’ve learned in terms of health and safety from COVID, like hand sanitizer, wearing masks on public transport if you’re sick. I really hope that we can keep those. But just moving on from the pain and the trauma that COVID has been the cause of for a lot of communities. Not so much in Australia, but especially in America and things like that. Also COVID has exposed a lot of bad governance. I want our leaders in the future to be able to take a step forward, take control, hold themselves accountable, and be responsible for the people that you’ve been put to take care of.