Has COVID created a stronger sense of Canberran identity?

We are all in this: the first COVID-19 vaccination in ACT, administered in ACT in late February. Photo: Michelle Kroll

It’s not easy to try to explain to overseas friends the situation in Australia’s COVID-19 response.

The distinction between our state and territory governments and federal responsibilities combined with the large size of our country is difficult to understand for some, especially those living in more integrated countries with less divergent systems between regions.

In a conversation with a friend recently, I found myself trying to explain how my experience of the pandemic has differed so extremely from friends in Victoria or NSW.

“Well, we have a much smaller population and fewer international arrivals,” I said. “But I also feel that Canberrans adheres to health guidelines and we all want to help everyone stay safe and keep businesses open.”

There was a clear note of pride in my message. More and more, the pandemic makes me feel proud to be a Canberran, and I feel that this is amplified by the general tone of the national conversation about vaccination rates and lockdowns.

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As Victoria and NSW quarrel over who has managed shutdowns more effectively, and border closures become the source of state and territorial arguments, our Australian identity is defined more by our loyalty locally than a sense of national unity.

It makes sense. The pandemic is being controlled closely at the local level, and perhaps the only point of national consistency is the frustration over the federal rollout of vaccines.

But at the Canberra level, I have certainly noticed a stronger sense of municipal values ​​as we have overcome the threat of the delta variant reaching the capital.

People are so grateful for our relatively unharmed status through the pandemic and are very committed to maintaining it. There is a sense that everyone needs to pull themselves together to protect us from a lockdown, and if that means keeping closed to friends and family in other states, then let it be.

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I have noticed a strong sense of cooperation with companies and venues on COVID-19 measures and people who do not normally engage politically in public forums that write about being vaccinated and the importance of doing so for Canberra’s safety when the virus returns.

Is it just the circles I drive in, or has the pandemic revealed a genuine and strong sense of Canberra identity? In the light of COVID, is our success down to a common sense of values, especially when it comes to civic duty?

In that case, I feel that this is a clear positive result of an otherwise difficult and stressful time. The key will be to maintain it as we move into the ongoing COVID normal of the future.

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