Community Voices: life under lockdown

22 June 2020 | Posted In: #135 Winter 2020,

We ask inner-Sydney residents to share their thoughts on the big issue of the day. Here, five people talk about life under lockdown.


I live on my own, so I’m not trapped here with people I don’t want to be with 24/7. On the other hand, how do I socialise when I can’t go for a swim at the pool because it’s closed; I can’t even go to church. And I can’t go to the shops as often. I used to like browsing — that was part of my life. Now you have to know exactly what you’re going to get from the shops while walking down the aisle making sure you don’t bang into anyone else. And you have to make sure you’ve got your credit card ready because cash is dirty. Which means things are a little bit more expensive because often there is a surcharge when you’re paying with a card. It’s tough when you have to fork out a little bit more when the quality of life has been so reduced. So I’m glad we’re getting the next $750 bonus in July — but how do we pay for things between now and then? I’ve got wifi here, it’s medium level. I’ve shared my password with a dozen of my neighbours who are without. All public housing ought to have wifi. A situation like this makes it obvious. Luckily, they’ve kept the television antennas working, so that stops us from rioting.


I’ve been studying business for the past three years. Things were going well until the beginning of March when, unfortunately, I lost my job without notice due to COVID-19. I understand the government expects [international students] to afford all our costs, which we pretty much do. But we also rely on working 20 hours a week to cover some other basic expenses, especially in Sydney which is a very expensive city. So, I’ve been struggling financially since I lost my job. Luckily, I was able to negotiate and get a rent reduction because I have had no income so far. Now I’ve been living with some savings and also through the help of amazing friends. I also have a lot of friends who have left the country because they didn’t have a way to support themselves, so they had to go back home. I also have so many friends here who are struggling: some are couch surfing; some of them had to move to cheaper accommodation; some of them are doing Deliveroo or Uber Eats. They’ve had to change their routines completely in order to survive. At the moment, it is very hard to make any plans, and it’s hard to know what’s going to happen. I really hope that all of this finishes very soon.


Just lately, more people than usual have said to me — and I would agree — that there’s a feeling that this really is the end of something. We are all feeling it and we all feel each other’s angst. There’s a feeling of entrapment and not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s building. There’s a corrective energy that I’m tuning in to. I’m feeling more philosophical than at the beginning of the lockdown. Then, it was all practicalities like, “God, what am I going to do? Where are my friends; when will I see them?” I feel my life is actually useless right now. I miss being able to go where I want to go and visit who I want to visit. I’m a member of the Indigenous gym and that’s shut down — I really miss that. I wake up every morning thinking: “I don’t know what I’m going to do today. Does it matter? Did it ever matter?” I think we are sensitive to each other in a way that seems more profound right now than I’ve ever experienced. Life is simpler; it’s quieter. [The pandemic] is changing the pattern of the days and our thoughts. It seems nature is more noticeable to my eyes. I’ve got a vegetable patch in a community garden and that’s become just a bit more vivid than before.


It’s crazy, no good at all — for a lot of people. The self-isolation, it’s not good to be alone. I’m by myself in public housing. Being lonely affects you upstairs. You’ve got to change your routine. I used to go to the library and use the free wifi. Right now, I can’t do that — the library isn’t open yet. Before lockdown, I was going to the soup kitchens and the charities for help. But after COVID hit, finding food became a big headache. I’m on a pension, I don’t have the money. I’ve got to worry about where the next meal is going to come from. After the lockdown, there’s less food available. Restaurants are closed, so there’s less food for the OzHarvest people to recycle. Also, the volunteers are elderly. They don’t want to get COVID, so they stay home. So no-one’s serving at the charities. Right now, things are bad. A lot of people are out of work. People are desperate, they are seeking more assistance. But there’s less available. Before, they use to give you a kilo bag of rice, now it’s a 200gm box of rice. The St. Vinnies food stamp use to be $60, now it’s $30. Does that affect me? Yes, it does, because I didn’t have the money in the first place; now you’re telling me there’s less services available, less food available. If you don’t have mincemeat, if you don’t have the vegetables — what are you going to do?  I have to make ends meet somehow. You just eat less if you don’t have the food. Or you become inventive, like putting Milo with rice. It’s an acquired taste.


I was dealing with it OK, but with lockdown I was having lots of micro-seconds when I wanted to have a drink. I’m an alcoholic — sober for eight years. When I could go down to the beach, it was OK because I could exercise down there and have a swim. Then they shut the beach down and it was quite hard. I really wanted a drink. And I find people are quite abusive out on the streets. You’re three metres away from someone and they’re shouting at you to keep your distance — if people are so paranoid, they shouldn’t go out! It’s just a combination of everything. It’s been difficult. But it’s the isolation that’s the worst. When you’re only supposed to go to the shop and come back. Just to be able to go for a walk or a swim or something, but you weren’t allowed to do it. That was a real killer. And I miss contact with people. We’re social animals. I’m trying to make conversation at the checkout, just to be able to talk to someone. I’m legally blind so I can’t use a computer. I know a lot of people are keeping in touch with one another on their computers — but I can’t. I can only put up with myself for so long. I’m an only child so I’m used to amusing myself, but you do get over yourself after a while.