A message from Bridie, Disability & Equity Officer
GSA understands that the recent announcement of the end of mandatory isolation will be very concerning to many people, particularly those in the disabled, immune-compromised and carer communities. Below is a statement from the GSA Disability and Equity Officer, Bridie Cochrane-Holley. This statement has been endorsed and supported by Board President Jesse.
This is a decision that carries immense grief and loss particularly for the disabled, immune-compromised and carer communities, in terms of our increasingly diminishing sense of safety, protection and trust, and for the lives that will be lost. Because it’s these communities who are the most vulnerable to the negative impact that this change has the capacity to have. If you are grieving, you are not alone.
Community safety is not just a matter of personal responsibility or choice, and that this change in isolation requirements will place the negative impact and burden of the choices of others onto our most vulnerable communities. We ask that students meaningfully engage in a sense of community, and act to keep our community safe from COVID, as much as possible.
However, it is a luxury to ask students to continue to isolate once isolation payments are removed. There are workers who won’t have five days’ leave stored up or any paid leave time that they can use. In fact in cruel irony, it is often those who are most vulnerable who cannot afford to take time off work or miss out on pay to isolate or recover. This change will demand that the most vulnerable communities will be pitted against each other and it will be called “a personal choice”.
Many people in the disabled, immune-compromised and carer communities now face an impossible choice. If we don’t have COVID, we have to risk going out and actively engaging with COVID at potentially a much higher rate than we ever have these last 2.5 years. Or we risk losing work, friends, medical appointments, opportunities and life experiences in general because many forms of virtual engagement and accessibility accommodations gained during lockdowns and the initial stages of the pandemic are being rolled back or abandoned. To “stay safe” we are asked to accept a life that the abled community is not willing to accept for themselves. And fair enough. But why should we have to?
If we have COVID, our risk compounds; if we need to work to survive while sick, we do so at the expense of our health. If we attempt to recover, we do so at the expense of livelihood; food, housing, medication, safety. We are being asked to die from it, or asked to be diminished by it.
We’re in the “choose your own pandemic” stage, but many people don’t even have that choice and that it’s jarring to see that false opportunity be taken up by others. We ask students, as much as they are able to, to continue to mask, test and isolate when sick.
We also ask that The University of Melbourne act to support our vulnerable communities and support workers by making voluntary isolation a viable choice when people are sick.
If you are struggling with this announcement and the serious ramifications of it, or know that you will be forced to make a decision between community health and your livelihood, you are not alone. The University of Melbourne offers Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the University Health Service.
Disability and Equity Officer