In the space of a few weeks the indiscriminate blows delivered by COVID-19 virus to the familiar economic and community structures of this country have been deep and harmful but a wished-for ‘snap back’ to the way we were may well be replaced by dramatic and lasting ‘phase change’ in many areas of our way of life.

The seeds of change have already been sown in a myriad areas of our national community, ranging from the extraordinary emergency responses by governments to preserve some semblence of economic normalcy and social well-being, dramatic changes in the public health milieu, and a host of societal impositions and restraints which, remarkedly, have been accepted by a worried population.

Phase change is a scientific term used to describe the transitions of elements and compounds from one state to another, say, water to ice, or molten lava to rock.

The atomic composition of matter in these forms does not change once altered by heat, cooling or pressure, but the new characteristics are easily recognisable.

The disruptions to what we have always thought of being normal in our social, political and economic lives may have lasting effects.

The population will remain the same but the world around us – employment, personal aspiration and well-being, civic security, community and cultural life, education, social behaviours, and ideologies, may well take different shapes and directions.

But, perhaps we should also recognise that the sudden and savagery of the intrusion by COVID-19 into this country has not been a planned strategy of the virus itself, rather, the arrival of the virus has simply accelerated slow changes already evident in the economy, political and social life.

A cascade of pragmatic decision-making has been made in response to the adversities imposed by the virus.

Long-held ideological positions have had to be discarded by politicians, employers, union leaders, health administrators, and others in order to protect and preserve citizens and economic structures.

The costs, in dollar terms, may well be extreme but life has been breathed into some long-sought reforms in employment and welfare policies, social protection and national aspiration which may result in some abrupt and radical changes to our nation.

It is a little ironic that the measures which have provided emergency templates for combating a mindless but devastating virus may be the agents of social and economic ‘phase change’ in Australia.

No doubt, prudent political decisions will eventually be needed.

Post-virus accountability and responsibility will be required in meeting the current national decision to borrow from the future to preserve the present.

We can only hope that by that time the lessons of commonsense and co-operative debate have been learned.

The coming decade will show how well we have learned from the current crisis but it is also important that the essential elements of the way of life we once enjoyed are preserved.

Probably the most important among these basic characteristics are the preservation of freedom of speech, a recognition of universal human rights, a fair and equitable system of justice and public order, protections and equity relating to education, employment and welfare for people of all ages.

The legacies of the COVID-19 pandemic may well have transformational impacts on us all.

At present the future is confronting and worrying but if we, as a nation, continue to work co-operatively and confidently together, we may secure a future that will do us proud.

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