The coronavirus has severely affected all aspects of our lives and has had a toll on our economic, social, cultural and psychological wellbeing.
From grandparents not being able to hug their grandchildren to friends not able to drop by to provide support. From people losing their jobs and fearing not being able to pay the rent to children not being able play together. From having to close your small business to not being able to purchase essentials such as flour and toilet paper.
It’s been heartbreaking and emotionally taxing.
But we’ve had to undertake this path together to save lives and from all the information that we’ve received from our health experts, perhaps save thousands of lives.
The lives of grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, brothers, sisters, partners, children, friends and neighbours.
To save these lives we’ve had some of our freedoms curtailed through necessary restrictions, the likes of which we’ve never lived through before.
But through this incredibly difficult time there have been some genuine heroes and acts of kindness. From our diverse health professionals and staff on the frontline to the community volunteers reaching out at the local level to support those more isolated or experiencing hardships.
This is what makes a civilised and compassionate society – how we come together and support each other in times of need or crisis, irrespective of where you live, your background, gender, sexuality, faith, culture or the colour of your skin.
We cannot lose this; in fact, we must be proud of this and where possible strengthen this.
Sadly, and disappointingly, there have also been some disturbing trends and incidents. One of those has been the rise of racism; locally, nationally and globally. Blaming people because of their ethnicity, faith or the colour of their skin is simply not acceptable in a society and country that is amongst the most diverse in the world. A diversity that has contributed so much culturally and economically. In fact, our immigration and humanitarian programs have contributed significantly to almost 30 years of continuous economic growth.
Blaming people because of their ethnicity, faith or the colour of their skin is simply not acceptable in a society and country that is amongst the most diverse in the world.
I get that restrictions to our freedom can be frustrating. I understand that we feel vulnerable when unable to farewell our loved ones the way we normally would. I know that losing a job or closing a business can generate so much fear and anxiety. These are not easy to deal with.
But that should never excuse racism or violence!
We are a proud multicultural society where almost 50 per cent of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. We are global citizens and welcome people from all over the world, many of whom are our relatives, friends or neighbours.
We are global citizens and welcome people from all over the world, many of whom are our relatives, friends or neighbours.
We are a society, a collective where we enjoy the food, conversation, culture, fashion, intelligence, leadership and volunteering efforts that has given us much depth and opportunity.
I appeal to the better part of our human nature during this time. The better part we have demonstrated aplenty already during this crisis. Just remember the Bushfire crisis only a few months ago … and we can and will do it again.
Let’s not allow our collective humanity to be tarnished by the poor behaviour of some.
We’re all in this together.
Vivienne Nguyen is Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.