The juxtaposition of messages from our medical experts and government leaders is stark. “We are in this together. We need to be kind and look after each other. We need to keep away from each other and stay isolated. Be socially distant.”

The impact of COVID-19 is like nothing else we’ve experienced. While the health system grapples with the potential onslaught to their resources, we are also facing extreme economic pressures and significant levels of business closures and rising unemployment.

Government has announced multiple levels of intervention, stimulus and supports with more to come. Every person, business owner and organisation have to work through the announcements, analyse their effect and make decisions about their livelihoods.

These are not normal times. Generations will look back at this period as a seismic shift in the way we work, relate and exist.

So how do we see through this calamity and find hope and optimism?

We are living an existential existence everyday as we fight an enemy we can’t see.

If we look back to behaviours and attitudes during war time, there are significant lessons. Items were rationed and post-Depression era citizens were aware of the need to ‘make do’. In 1939, the British Government created a series of posters to help boost morale. While the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was not well known at the time, it was re-discovered by a UK book shop owner in 2000 and has become a message of stoicism that has resonated through our modern society.

In Australia, our food supplies are secure, most of us can live simply from our homes, and our health systems are world class. We need to now display war time behaviours of self-discipline, fortitude and calmness in crisis.

But we also need to protect our most vulnerable including older people, people with compounding health issues, people with insecure housing, those without employment and those who have unsafe home environments. If you are financially secure and able to maintain income streams during this period, consider how you can support local businesses and community by continuing to buy goods and services via home delivery. If you can donate to local charities to provide support to people who need it most, please do so.

In this new environment, we need to show kindness and solidarity while maintaining social distancing. We will learn more about digital technology and also embrace the simplicity of living and working at home. We need to come together, while staying apart. And when we get through this, we will be different but hopefully far more resilient, adaptive and flexible as a community.

Committee for Geelong CEO Jennifer Cromarty