In nearly every conversation I had in the closing days of December, I encountered that all-too-familiar refrain, "let's hope for a better year in 2021".
After a year of unforeseeable disruption and anxiety - and for some families, heartache - it's hardly surprising that we approached the dawning of a new year with a shared spirit of intense hope. That said, it's important, in these early days of 2021, to look back as well as forward.
Australia's and NSW's successful handling of the pandemic in 2020 is frequently lauded by scientists, political leaders and commentators worldwide. We've had our setbacks, certainly. But, when compared with other advanced societies, we remain in a position of relative strength.
New infection rates are low. Contact tracing is swift and robust. Businesses remain open. We've returned more quickly and more safely than others to a degree of social normality.
There's no simple formula for that success.
What we can say, though, is that that success owes much to our citizens' commitment to the public good. This has been unmistakable over the past weeks, as tens of thousands of New South Wales residents diligently followed advice to get tested and do their bit to halt infection chains.
Our success has resulted, in a significant way, from strong (albeit difficult) decisions made early.
Our success reflects our widely held respect for, and trust in, the professionalism of the scientific community. Misinformation proliferates in times of panic; this is hardly a new phenomenon. However, we've done remarkably well to eschew destructive pseudoscience in favour of intellectual rigour in our public discourse.
This last point will be critically important in 2021, with the roll-out of an effective vaccine set to mark a turning point in our fight against this virus - and a much-awaited return to a more normal way of life.
2020 is now in the rear vision mirror. Let's not forget the phenomenal resilience, creativity and optimism that brought us to this point. And let's look forward to a better 2021.
Happy new year!