OPINION

Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Resilience is deeply embedded in the Australian DNA

Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Resilience is deeply embedded in the Australian DNA

Resilience is deeply embedded in the Australian DNA. Just take a look at our country's floral emblem: the sturdy golden wattle. Usually one of the first plants to germinate after a bushfire, the wattle is a potent symbol of our nation's seemingly endless capacity to emerge from adversity and flourish.

Aboriginal people lived here for more than 60,000 years before European settlement. The legacy of their spirituality, of their deep reverence for the sacredness of existence, is a remarkable resilience that persists among Aboriginal people today - even after the trauma of dispossession. That resilience has ensured the survival of a culture that pre-dates any other living culture on earth.

By the time of the Great War, an emergent sense of nationalism compelled young men to serve their country, with around 417,000 men - or a staggering 39% of all men aged 18-44 - enlisting for service. Of these, an estimated 58,961 died, 166,811 were wounded, 4098 went missing or were made prisoners of war, and 87,865 suffered sickness. It was a war that had untold social and economic consequences for a country with such a small population.

In 1919, 15,000 Australians succumbed to Spanish flu. And in 1929, only a short time after a global health crisis, the world was plunged into an economic crisis with the onset of the Great Depression. At the peak of the Depression, unemployment sat at 30%. By 1939, we were once again at war and by 1942 facing the prospect of invasion.

And yet our country's history is replete with stories of ordinary men and women overcoming unimaginable hardship to make ends meet. To support each other. To find a way forward. During the Second World War, there was a concept on the home front of "equality of sacrifice"; everyone did their little bit to support the war effort. It wasn't easy, but it built unity at a time when unity was sorely needed. (That could equally apply to the situation we find ourselves in today.)

Australian people have endured every hardship imaginable - and they have done so with stoicism, inventiveness and a unique sense of generosity.

As we navigate our way through this pandemic, let's remember that resilience has shaped our country from its earliest beginnings. It's that resilience, I believe, that will see us emerge from COVID-19 with renewed hope and optimism.