‘People in other states don’t get where we’re at’: How Melburnians are coping under lockdown

All Australians have had to adapt to the changes introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but life has been especially tough for Melburnians.

As the rest of the country gradually eased restrictions, Melbourne remained in the midst of stage 4 lockdown, which is set to run until September 13.

It is having an impact on jobs and income and also on mental health.

GP and clinical consultant to mental health support organisation Beyond Blue Grant Blashki lives in Melbourne and is seeing the anxiety first-hand.

“What I’m noticing with my patients is a great deal of uncertainty — where am I going to be in three to six months?

The Melbourne skyline with skyscrapers in the background and private dwellings in the foreground.
Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown includes a curfew and mandatory face masks.(ABC News: Daniel Fermer)

“I think that it’s really a triple whammy: they’re worried about the infection, they’re worried about big changes to their home life, and they’re also worried about work and money.”

In August, 75 per cent of contact with the support services Beyond Blue offers are being accessed by Victorians.

“At Beyond Blue, every month since March compared to the same time last year, we’ve seen a 40 to 60 per cent jump. We’ve had a doubling on the forums, so 1.3 million people are on these chat forums talking to each other.

“That’s a good thing in a way, that people are reaching out, but it’s also indicative of the stress. And the other thing we’ve noticed is that new figures in August [show] that three-quarters of our contacts are coming from Victoria.”

‘I can’t let myself get down’

Five women smiling.
Debbie Wood is worried about being able to feed her four daughters and pay the rent.(Supplied: Debbie Wood)

Hairdresser Debbie Wood is out of work and in lockdown with her four daughters at their home in south-east Melbourne.

“This is my second stint of being off work due to the coronavirus. The first time, the boss closed the salon due to safety measures and the second time, the Government has closed us down,” she told 7.30.

After 19 years at the same salon, she has no idea whether her boss will re-open when restrictions ease.

Ms Wood is supporting the family on JobKeeper.

“With four kids, it’s not a lot. You’re worrying about tomorrow. Am I going to be able to feed my kids next week, are we going to be able to pay the rent? So it’s very stressful, it’s on my mind 24/7,” she said.

“I can’t let myself get down but I do have days where it affects me. I just have to keep myself active and busy.”

‘Biggest strain on relationship we’ve ever had’

A man and woman with two small children.
Todd and Jenelle Delahunt with their two children.(Supplied: Jenelle Delahunt)

Jenelle and Todd Delahunt run the Kick n Paddle Swim School at Reservoir in Melbourne. When stage 3 restrictions were eased, they hoped business would start to return to normal.

But then came a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and the Victorian Government introduced stage 4 restrictions.

“It was heartbreaking,” Ms Delahunt said.

“We’d been closed since mid-March, and we’d re-opened for seven, eight days and we basically stopped after that.

“We have no idea when we are returning, whether it will even be this year or not.”

The couple re-structured the business in January so do not qualify for the Government’s cash boost.

Mr Delahunt has other full-time work but, with two children to support, the couple is having to dip into their savings to pay the bills.

“We’ve got 15 or 16 staff in total. We’ve been able to get eight of them onto JobKeeper, the others, unfortunately, didn’t qualify so we had to stand them down,” Ms Delahunt said.

Mr Delahunt said, “It’s probably the biggest strain on our relationship we’ve ever had.

“There is so much pressure and we feel like we’ve got a really good, close-knit team who are relying on us to provide an income for them. It’s just not us, we are talking about 15 families.

“It’s pretty hard.”

Their children, Ryan, six, and Billy, four, have both had birthdays during lockdown.

“They’re missing their friends, they’re missing going outside. There are times when we want to go for a walk and they don’t want to leave the gate because they’re scared of the ‘superbug'”, Ms Delahunt said.

They say it is tough when they speak to friends interstate who are living a very different life.

“They are talking about pubs in Queensland opening. We are going to the complete opposite. [We] feel like the lepers of Australia, sort of,” Mr Delahunt said.

‘Take each day at a time’

Dr Grant Blashki from Beyond Blue sits in his office.
Dr Grant Blashki says many Melburnians feel like they’re living in a parallel universe.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

Debbie Wood’s four daughters are also struggling with the tough regulations, with distance learning and limited outings or travel.

“The girls are very sporty, we normally have activities five nights a week. My oldest daughter, who’s 20, her boyfriend lives in Sydney so he can’t come down due to having to go back into quarantine. It has affected us a lot,” Ms Wood said.

Ms Woods is considering whether she needs to re-skill and find a new career.

“I’ve been looking at TAFE. I need to work full-time for the future. My youngest is 12 so I’ve got a long way to go with my kids financially. And if I do study, is it going to lead to anything because of my age?”

“You speak to your friends around the country and they’re going out to dinner, out and about, worried about those everyday things people worry about, and I think a lot of Victorians are feeling, ‘Oh, you don’t quite get where we’re at.’

“We can only go out of the house for one hour a day, we can’t do our usual work and it’s really quite a challenge for people at the moment.”

Dr Blashki has some words of advice.

“It is a really tough time. Have realistic expectations for yourself. You will have good and bad days. Take each day at a time, and I am hopeful we will look back at this time as a strange time in history,” he said.