‘I was in the bushfires on New Year’s Eve down in Batemans Bay. After the fire went through, we ended up in an evacuation centre. I found myself in a situation where I had no control over what was happening to me, it wasn’t safe for me to return to where I’d been, and I couldn’t leave. Immediately after the danger had passed there were some basic services that came in to ensure we had food, water and accommodation – even if it was the floor of the town library which turned out to be one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had after that day!

‘When the pandemic hit, I started to see what was happening in hospitality with so many people losing their jobs one by one overnight.

‘I had just closed my restaurant late last year so here I was with this premises, and I thought, there is something I can do here – let me see if I can raise some money and get some people to help me.

‘For me, it’s kind of been this reverse experience. I thought I can provide part of what I received during the bushfire crisis in this scenario by just using what I have here and what other people will support me with to do this.

‘We’re doing free food every Friday for anyone who needs it. There are many industries where people have lost work in a short space of time – hospitality, retail, travel, education – there are so many sectors that are affected. We have beautiful volunteers who prepare and serve the food and we have an incredible amount of support from suppliers.

‘There is this whole interesting idea of charity versus community. What we see here is community coming together to share the abundance that exists within that community. It’s interesting because I think people might not feel like they can take charity or they qualify for it… but everyone at a time like this, and actually always, should be able to tap in to the resources of their community to help them when they need it. That is like the ultimate equation of abundance – there is always enough.’

For more information:

https://hearthandsoul.com.au/

‘I’m an event coordinator so our industry is completely gone. I’m concerned for the future because I don’t even know if we’re going to be able to have events anymore if we don’t have a vaccine.
 
‘It’s scary because I’ve been in Australia for 7 years. I came here with all the energy to start a new life. I would never have imagined I would be going through such a situation. I never was scared of working or learning something new. And I wonder, where is this person? I need to find it. I feel like I’m drowning. Every time I try to hold something it’s just gone.
 
‘I’m sad because my friends are losing jobs and they have nothing. I have a lot of international friends and they are scared. We feel lonely because the government doesn’t help everyone. I understand, you need to look after your citizens but at the same time all these people who came here and they support the country in some way – paying taxes and everything – and now they are left with nothing and they can’t even go back to their country.
 
‘I just wake up every day thinking that it’s a nightmare and I want to wake up from it.’

‘I have Stage IV cancer – it’s under control at the moment. I value every moment. I value the time I’ve got. I value friends and just the beauty of the world around me. You don’t have to go out in to the countryside to see beauty. There’s beauty here. There’s beauty everywhere. I seem to notice it more. I notice things more now. I don’t need to do spectacular things. I get pleasure out of very simple things in life.’

‘As long as I can remember I’ve seen people cry and grieve and celebrate life by singing and dancing in the name of a person’s life.

‘I’m Tokelauan Fijian – my mother’s Tokelauan and my father’s Fijian. Both sides have quit similar mourning processes but on my Fijian side the whole mourning process is 100 days. On my Tokelauan side it’s 10 days.

‘I found out my nanna passed away when I was 17 and I was on a plane from Australia and thrown in to 2 weeks of planning, organising, crying, cooking, singing, dancing, praying with my family from 7am to 4am, 10 days in a row.

‘Sitting with her body and my family for ten days – actually sitting and talking to her and holding her and seeing that it was real; there was no tangible life left in her – that really helped me.

‘In my mother’s culture, when you begin the mourning process you have these things called Leos – each community or family member that’s connected to the person who’s passed away will come together with their family and present to the immediate family of the person who’s passed away gifts, prayer and song.

‘So many people came to my nanna – it was leo after leo after leo. Each time we did a leo, I grieved again – even when I thought I had nothing left in me.

‘If you know the songs and dance, you get up and join in – even if it’s not your family. The power of the call of community and the call to celebrate was so revealing for me because it was really my community and my family saying you’re not alone.

‘Going through that entire experience really slapped me in the face because it taught me about the importance of sitting with death and sharing your grief. It also taught me the importance of celebration for a person’s life.

‘You share everything throughout the process – there is no hiding; there is quite literally nowhere to go away and just be private. It can be very overwhelming too but I personally found a lot of comfort in it.’

‘They (Department of Education) told me in later years I wasn’t to hug the children and I said, “Well, it will be a long day before I can’t hug somebody.”

‘I can’t stop children from coming up and hugging me. I said that I won’t stop hugging them. I never did.

‘You know all children, doesn’t matter which ones they are, they all need love. You have to give it to receive it. I doesn’t matter how much their mums and dads love them, you can always give them a little bit more because everybody needs love and you can always do with a little bit extra of that.

‘Children are so hungry to be loved. That’s all most of them wanted – to be understood and loved. Because that’s the real main thing in life. Nobody listens much you know – they talk but a lot of people don’t listen to you, you know?’

‘One of my biggest challenges in life is just dealing with people. With some people it depends on how they’re day is going as to how they approach you as a person.

‘The way I was brought up though means that I just don’t really care about it. You don’t need everyone you meet. There are so many people in the world that if someone puts you down there are other people that can bring you up.’