Discover more from Dystopian Down Under
From Australia's most liveable city, to the world's most locked down hellhole
WEEKEND VIEWING: Revisiting acclaimed doco, Battleground Melbourne
Once the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne descended into Cult Covidian madness during the pandemic years. The city had the longest lockdowns in the world - six lockdowns with a cumulative total of just over 260 days. Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria, had some of the most restrictive and arbitrary Covid rules, and witnessed police brutality previously unheard of in Australia.
Police patrolled parks checking the contents of people’s coffee cups to ensure maskless pedestrians were compliant with the rules (Sipping coffee, ok to take mask off. Empty cup, receive a fine.).
Pregnant woman Zoe Buhler was arrested at home in her pyjamas for creating a ‘freedom day’ event on Facebook.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews imposed a ‘ring of steel’ around Melbourne, preventing city dwellers from leaving and regional dwellers from entering the city. People were not allowed to stray further than 5km from their homes, and a curfew was enacted.
Businesses were forcibly closed. Gatherings were not allowed. Playgrounds, skateparks and basketball and tennis courts were closed. The health advice on which these decisions were made has never been released to the public.
Thousands of Melbourne residents were contained in public housing flats under police guard, for weeks. The Victorian ombudsman found that the government had breached human rights. The official response from Housing Minister Richard Wynne was, "We make no apology for saving people's lives."
Numerous reports have found that these kinds of measures produced net harm in Australia. The Institute of Public Affairs found that Australia's Covid response cost $934.8 billion and resulted in 31 x more life years lost than were saved. Victoria bore the brunt of these costs, economically, socially, in health outcomes, and in other knock on impacts such as learning loss.
A post-trauma response
Earlier this year, I travelled to Melbourne for the first time since the pandemic lockdowns. The city was coming back to itself. Bars pumped loud music, clatter and chatter drifted out of restaurant doorways, traffic was mental, baristas turned over hundreds of coffees without so much as a smile. All familiar.
It was only by talking to people, or rather, by listening intently, that I gained an inkling that something had changed, for good. Many people I spoke to seemed traumatised.
Alcoholics relapsed without the support of their 12 step fellowships. Financial stress from loss of earnings during periods of not being allowed to work. Loss of fitness and general health from being under house arrest. A sense of joylessness from lack of community interaction and play. Relationship breakdowns from the stress of being cooped up and separated from support networks. Emergency hospital trips after vaccination, without any efforts by medical staff to get to the bottom of what caused them. Families separated for years. Aged parents isolated in homes, slowly deteriorating with dementia. Funerals unattended.
Trauma is such an overused word, it’s worth revisiting what it means. Here is a definition from the American Psychological Association:
“Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.”
This describes what I witnessed in Melbourne, just below the surface of ‘hi, how are you?’
Battleground Melbourne creates historical record
In his acclaimed doco Battleground Melbourne, Topher Field documents the ‘lived experience’ of Melbournians during the lockdowns. I think this film will be an important historical artefact. It’s very sad, even harrowing in parts, but one of those films you have to watch because we need to collectively acknowledge, ‘this happened’.
The doco was released in 2022, but I only just discovered it this week when Topher shared it on Twitter - one of the recent improvements to the platform is the capacity to upload long form video.
There are so many ‘I can’t believe that happened’ moments. A standout for me is a scene where a policeman in combat gear confesses to a protestor that he doesn’t want to be aggressively policing protests. His wife has lost her job, and he’s “f-ing over” the lockdowns too, but he’s not skilled to do any other job, and his family needs the income, and so he does it because he feels he has to. The hunters and the hunted - all victims of Dan Andrews tyranny and the vaccine mandate death lottery.
Watch and share
It’s an important watch, and may offer some catharsis to those who lived through it.
Dystopian Down Under is a reader-supported publication. Consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
PS - A number of subscribers have asked for a way of contributing to DDU without necessarily having to sign up for the monthly subscriber fee. I have now created a Kofi account, via which readers can contribute any amount, any time. Thanks!
The true cost of Australia’s Covid response….
Edit 8 July 2023: An earlier version of this story described Zoe Buhler as “heavily pregnant.” This has been corrected to “pregnant.“