As we all try to reconcile ourselves into our 21st century version of social and economic disruption and being forced into lockdown and isolation with COVID-19 we need only look back 100 years when our brave servicemen began to return from WWI to Australia. Unfortunately they didn’t just bring back souvenirs, memories (good and bad) and new mates, they also carried with them the Spanish influenza that was sweeping the world.
This influenza was most deadly to those aged between 20 and 40 and the government took steps to quarantine returning service personnel for seven days. Things got so bad that NSW closed its border to Victoria. School start to the year was postponed, public meetings of more than 20 people were banned, travel in long distance trains was restricted, pubs within 15 miles of Melbourne’s GPO were forced to close their doors and social interaction was to be limited. Sounds very familiar.
The pandemic finally ended early in October after the third wave of the virus final receded but not until 3,500 (1%) Victorian’s had died as a result of the virus. In fact the pandemic of 1918/20, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population.
As we contemplate our current pandemic and begin writing our own history of 2019/20 I can hear my Grandfather now telling me that yes it was bad, very bad, they did have to curtail activities and events because of it but they did emerge from these dark clouds, some communities and families better than others. The question is – what will history say about us?
In these times please stay safe and healthy and take care, but at the same time think of others and look out for your friends and neighbours.
Altona-Laverton Historical Society