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Dan Andrews and Political Affiliations by Jay L. Johnstone.

Dogs and footpaths. I had been pondering writing a blog about dogs and footpaths because so many people had been asking me about my stance on dogs and asking if I would lobby to have a footpath fixed or constructed near their home. Both are things I am for. I love dogs and have one, he is a good boy. I like footpaths and think they should be clean, green (accompanies by appropriate grass, trees and lighting) and they should connect our homes to each other and amenities. But. Then came the flood: message after message and surveys galore all asking the same two questions: what is my political affiliation and what do I think of/how do I rate Dan Andrews. Part of my campaign is about honesty and transparency, so it behooves (great word) me to tell you where I stand on these issues.

A couple of things to help you as we go. I write how I speak. If my use of words is confusing or what I am saying takes a couple of readings, that's because I am natural speaker first. The connection between my brain and my mouth is much stronger then between my head and my hands. As I write, I am imagining myself giving this as a speech, so I will write it in order to speak it to an audience. There is a real difference between communication written for reading and written for hearing. I feel this one and, will be sharing from my experience in vulnerability. This is not to manipulate, or to make you uncomfortable. I am sharing my human experience in a recently impactful event. As I share with you there is an inherent compact of honour. I am trusting you to deal with me as honestly as I share with you. I am being real and open.

Politics is not a strange new world to me. In my home growing up two topics were a constant: politics and religion. These were discussed with issues of the day and sides were taken and political figures assessed and lampooned. This was in the 'times before Covid', when the great decisions of importance divvied up the great wealth generated in our country. But this year it changed. Instead of allocating funding and starting or stopping programs, our governments where instead faced with a nightmare scenario. A brand new, highly contagious pathogen with all the potential to cause immense, even irreparable damage. While we watched its spread and even mocked it a little on the TV, our political leaders were taking advice that must have sounded ridiculous, 'shut it down', 'shut it all down and do it now'. If you remember, no one really took this advice at first. Outside of the epidemiologists, no one had a metric to understand what was happening. So each country in turn, starting with China, but also Europe and the UK and USA and then us in Australia, were a little to slow to respond and allowed the virus a foothold. Perhaps it doesn't matter and this virus was going to find a way in anyway. But at that stage we didn't really know what was coming and we didn't really believe what was happening. If we can't agree now, almost a year in, then our politicians can be forgiven for being a little skeptical about what was happening at the start. But slowly, the images of mass graves being dug and overrun hospitals maxed out with the sick broke our stupor. We had arrived at a modern pandemic and we were not ready. What stuck with me was 2 images out of New York: Freezer trailers, the ones used to transport frozen goods, had been brought in to store the dead because the morgues around the Big Apple had been filled. And a giant field hospital erected in central park because the hospitals couldn't cope with the sick. Then the pandemic came to us.

Before we got sent home, I had already been home for two weeks. Early in the year, despite having contracted the virus as a 2 year old, I got chicken pox. I visited the doctor with some strange and VERY itchy spots on my body. I had no idea what they where and so waited for the weekend before seeing my doctor. Imagine my surprise at the diagnosis, the strain of virus I had been in contact with was mutated enough to get into my system. I was a little put out at the order to stay home and quarantine for the next two weeks. But when the doctor told me to, 'come back once the fever sets in', I decided to take it seriously. As I was at home, on the couch watching Star Trek, I was receiving messages from work about the changes being made around the school to mitigate our risk of Corona virus infection. Things were getting a little crazy. Students and staff had to wash their hands at every opportunity, then they had to separate as much as possible. Then everyone got sent home, just as I was allowed back out. At first it was kind of fun. The school was empty, except for staff seated at an appropriate distance. We were hanging out and learning new platforms for teaching. We were planning and experimenting and it was a creative space. But slowly it got more serious.

I am very outgoing and I love people. I get energy from being around people. I love being outdoors with people. Teaching is a natural fit for me. Being home isn't. Slowly but surely the stay at home order wore away at me. ZOOM classes stopped being fun and it started being a relief to just see other humans. The isolation wore away at me. I love my family and all 6 of my kids. But being stuck at home with them in an endless quarantine is not a recipe for healthy family dynamics.

Then stage 4 nearly broke me. I could not understand it, but I spent most of stage 4 feeling as though I was teetering on breaking. I could not think, my mind was in a fog and my ability to process and cope was almost nil. No matter how much sleep I got I was always exhausted and then I stopped being able to sleep at all. I survived because I have the most amazing and supportive friends in my co-workers. They rallied around me, while dealing with their own lockdown struggles. I completely understand the upset. I have really struggled through this, and my job as a teacher has never been in doubt. I have never had the additional worry about seeing my job disappear or my business go belly up. I have not had to see a lifetime of work unravel. I do not have those worries. I have hated the lockdown, but I do not presume to pass judgement on the people who have had to make these decisions. I simply lack the metric to properly process and understand what it is to be responsible for an entire society, the way our government has. Every one of these decisions has had an impact on millions. That is a weight I would struggle to carry.

Early in the year when I got chicken pox, it may have been as a result of our week-long stay in the Frankston Hospital. Our 5 year old daughter Sarah got ill, then she got very ill. Then she threw up on me and we rushed her to the emergency ward. She was taken in and quickly had 6 - 8 medical staff around her. She was in diabetic ketoacidosis. It was like a living nightmare. That night I had to drive from the hospital to our home a number of times, checking on our kids and collecting things for Sarah and Melissa. I spent those trips in tears. It was the worst experience of my life. If you would like to, feel free to scroll through my facebook page and see what Sarah looked like. We did not know what was happening for a number of hours, she was getting worse and worse. Facing the prospect of losing my daughter was unimaginable anguish. Just writing this is horrible. But we were amazingly supported and they got her the medical care she needed. Sarah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She was in hospital for 5 days, and when her levels got under control she came home. It has not been easy, she has struggled to adjust and managing her diagnosis is a daily struggle. Her body is busy at every moment of every day attacking itself. She is now more susceptible to infection and to viruses. But Sarah has guts; she will thrive.

I wrote in an email recently: How would I rate Daniel Andrews? I responded to a similar question not long ago and gave him a 6 out of 10. But I regret that now. I wouldn't rate him, because I have no metric for understanding the complexity and difficulty of being responsible for the health of millions of people. But I do have a daughter, 5 years old and in a high-risk category. So, while I will refrain from passing judgement on a sliding scale, I will share with you my emotional response to the premier of Victoria. Overwhelming gratitude and thanks that he has prioritised the needs of the vulnerable at time when they are at heightened risk. My young daughter is a constant reminder that while this has been a tough time, it pales in comparison to what has been experienced by the families who have had a loved one in hospital from this disease. That there have been so few cases, deaths and hospitalizations that we can complain about Dan's policies, is evidence that those same policies have kept my little girl safe. There is no scale to measure such a thing except to be grateful and thankful to have a government that cares to protect its people.

When I think about how tough it has been, I see my little girl on that gurney in that hospital. There is nothing I would not do to keep her from that again. To everyone of you who - like me - has struggled, but also had the worry and concern for seeing a beloved business at risk, thank you. Thank you for staying home despite the consequences. Thank you for keeping your distance though it sucks. Thank you because your actions have helped to keep the vulnerable safe. Thank you. I am happy to take your questions about dogs and footpaths.

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