For many in the shire, and across NSW, these last two years have probably been the most difficult in living memory and the most challenging since wartime.
We approach the festive season under the shadow of yet another unwelcome bauble, Omicron, a mutation to cause us concern as we make our way to 2022.
But the people of the shire have been the architects of their own freedom as Christmas celebrations approach. The double vaxxed here number more than 95 per cent of the 16+ population.
The way that citizens here have chosen to protect themselves and, more importantly, immunocompromised people with whom they could come into contact, has been phenomenal.
When COVID restrictions allowed exercise, the shire took full advantage. With the risk of transmission at its lowest in physically distanced outdoor settings, tennis courts were booked solid, and locals took the opportunity to discover beautiful places they'd never yet seen in our own backyard.
This attitude was so helpful in an environment where job losses, home-schooling and never-ending zoom sessions were taking a toll on mental health.
Despite the extraordinary vaccination rates and efforts to stay healthy in body and mind, the Shire wasn't immune from the damage wrought by COVID. There will be empty chairs around Christmas tables. There will be people struggling with the still poorly understood effects of so-called Long-COVID.
When this Christmas we enjoy the fruits of the freedoms won by vaccination and adherence to public health orders, spare a thought for those who are grieving loved ones lost to any cause, including COVID.
Spare a thought too for those caring for people recovering from COVID. I include, of course, our dedicated health workers who've been on the front line of this pandemic. They've done the testing, the vaccinating, the tending the ill and dying in hospitals.
They'll be the ones giving you your boosters when they fall due. I look forward to the New Year when we can see, again, the people of the Shire taking the lead in lining up for their boosters, to protect themselves, their loved ones and strangers alike.
The best Christmas present will be the continuing safety of our Shire and our State, something that the overwhelming majority of our citizens continue to work on together.
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