It was a tough start to 2020, as one of Australia’s most devastating bushfires to date showed no signs of waning. Sadly, this set the tone for what has been one of our most challenging years yet; with devastating fires, severe floods, and a global pandemic to contend with. All these environmental and health challenges have resulted in significant change throughout this year. Face masks quickly became our new normal, retailers moved their operations online, and countless families have been displaced or relocated from metro areas in favour of country or coastal living. From our nationwide network of offices and within our local communities, we’ve witnessed first-hand the amazing strength, resilience, kindness, and determination to recover and re-build physically, emotionally, and financially. 2021 will most definitely see us continue to re-build in a COVID normal world, but for now let’s reflect on the year that was, as we look ahead to 2021.
Fires unlike anything we’ve seen before
In late October 2019, lightning struck the bone-dry earth of Gospers Mountain, NSW and triggered what was the start of a mega-blaze that went on to ignite most of Eastern Australia. This harrowing bushfire claimed over 12.6 million hectares of land, took the lives of over 1 billion wild animals, those of 33 people and affected millions of Australian’s everyday lives. With our First National offices and teams spread throughout every corner of Australia, we were living through it all with you. As thousands were left without homes, our communities marched on – pooling resources, support and fundraising to show the world what a resilient bunch we are. In the wake of these fires, our ecosystem is showing similar resilience and optimism, with greenery and wildlife slowly returning.
Severe floods strike NSW and Queensland
Following on from the devastating fires; both Queensland and NSW experienced severe flooding in February, leading to damage to multiple homes and displacement. This was a prelude as in August, NSW was hit with the worst floods seen in twenty-nine years. These historic floods resulted in a 44-year-old surfer losing his life, thousands of emergency calls, thousands left without power for days and three evacuation orders on the South Coast.
COVID-19 hits Australia
As we watched a pandemic – unlike anything seen in our lifetime – spread from Asia throughout the globe, the sense of uncertainty and panic rocked us all. The first confirmed case hit Australia on the 25th of January, with borders closing to non-residents shortly after. As we were all glued to the daily press conferences, the number of new cases snowballed, and then gradually levelled out in late April. Unfortunately, a second wave of infection (attributed to a Melbourne hotel) hit Victoria the following month, which we’re only now beginning to emerge from. This global health crisis has hit us all in some way – whether it’s with direct physical impacts, mental health, or economic implications. Staying connected during this uncertain time has been a strong focus for us here at First National. We’re proud to have published over 300 advisory updates, health protocols as well as financial support for tenants and landlord articles, to help our members and communities confidently navigate a path through COVID-19.
We’ve all noticed a huge shift as a result of this global pandemic, from physical relocation through to shifting the way we do business. Here are some of our key observations from this tumultuous time:
Aussies are on the move
More than 10,500 Australians have made the move from capital cities to the coast or country as a result of the pandemic, with Melbourne having faced its biggest quarterly departure on record. The drivers of this move are thought to be more affordable accommodation, lifestyle factors and the discovery, for many, that working from home is a sustainable option. If you’re considering a sea change, get in touch with your local First National office for some advice.
Some doors close, while new doors open
The retail and hospitality industries have been hit hard by COVID-19, but while physical doors have closed, new digital doors have swung open. We’ve seen many Australian businesses adapt with new online takeout offerings, contactless deliveries and even some completely changing their core business. We continue to work closely with our commercial clients to navigate these unchartered waters and to help them reach newly formed goals.
The changing shape of the humble office
Is working from home here to stay? While some industries may continue to work from home for some time, we believe that flexibility is here to stay. Localised office hubs will become the norm, allowing employees to come together in smaller numbers for some much-needed connection and collaboration.
Mental health matters
A year of uncertainty and fear can affect even the strongest amongst us. It’s important now more than ever to prioritise mental health – particularly as we come towards the end of the year, which can be difficult at the best of times. This can simply be taking time out to do something you love, scheduling in regular endorphin-boosting exercise or practicing mindful breathing techniques. Remember to check in on those around you too, and don’t be afraid to ask for extra support if you need it. Contact Lifeline, Beyond Blue or Kids Helpline any time.
Connection within our communities is stronger than ever
First National Real Estate is actively involved with every community we’re part of. Our philanthropic arm – The First National Foundation, was formed to consolidate our fundraising efforts and strengthen our local communities. In addition, partnering with national charities to raise funds for communities in crisis. This year has been particularly challenging, and we’re proud to be able to give back to our communities by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help those in need.
Looking ahead to 2021 – our new normal.
Until a vaccine becomes available, our lives will need to adapt to our new COVID normal. Where washing hands, social distancing and mask-wearing becomes commonplace and businesses adapt, survive, and even thrive in this new world. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s been appreciation. Appreciation of the freedoms we’ve previously taken for granted and the appreciation of being with loved ones. Let’s take this with us into 2021, along with the resilience and optimism we’ve seen throughout our communities, as we tackle the year ahead together.
Don’t forget this summer holiday season you can support fire affected communities, just by taking a day trip; for more ideas on how we can best help fire affected communities click here. If you need support for you or a loved one you can call Lifeline 13 11 14, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636, for all emergencies dial 000.