Milan Kučera, who has lived with his family in Perth, Western Australia for 18 years and worked for the local Treasury for the same 18, considers himself a Czech living in Australia rather than an Australian of Czech descent . He explains why, in addition to the war in Ukraine, the coronavirus pandemics and recent floods continue to resonate strongly. And why life in Australia is still worth it.
Although covid appears to have ceased to exist in many countries around the world, Australians are now eagerly awaiting new developments.
At the end of February, after two long years, most local states reopened to foreign tourists – at a time when society is beginning to critically assess current government action and the number of infected people is rising dramatically, particularly in Australia. western. This is why she also decided to postpone the opening of the borders for about a month at the last minute.
How have Australians experienced these endless confinements? Has the mood changed in society?
It is difficult to answer this question – Australia consists of six states, in which governments have relatively high autonomy and each state has approached the pandemic differently. Although the federal government tried to coordinate the process, it was not very successful.
Only New South Wales and Victoria were interminable month-long shutdowns. ‘Our’ Government of Western Australia has taken the toughest approach – Western Australia has had its borders completely closed for over two years, not only international but also, with temporary exceptions, interstate for the rest from Australia.
As a result, we only spent about two weeks in lockdown in Perth (again due to a case or two of covid), and life here (unless one wants to travel outside the Western Australia) was near normal.
Trust in the local prime minister remained around an incredible ninety percent not only at the start of the pandemic, but also at the start of this year, when the omikron variant began to spread. It has now fallen to “just” 65%, mainly due to the last-minute postponement of the border opening in February.
I wonder myself what the mood will be in the next few months after opening to the world, when life outside Western Australia is slowly returning to normal, but we have thousands more cases a day, although so far without significant impact on the economy or hospitals.
Has the government been able to sufficiently explain why strict rules encourage people to understand and follow it?
The Western Australian government has been content to convince most people that it is protecting them from the malignant virus and that the local economy is the best in the world at the time of the pandemic. It was always enough to point the finger at East Australia or overseas.
What is the Australian nature in this regard? How do they generally react to regulations, prohibitions?
Probably the best example is vaccination – more or less across Australia, vaccination coverage is around 95% for people over the age of twelve. This is an incredible number for me compared to Europe or the United States. Most people have been convinced by the government that this is the best they can do.
But many people have been forced to make this decision under the threat of losing their jobs, such as police, health care, education, mining or second-class citizens, when you can’t go to restaurants. , museums, cinemas, gymnasiums, concerts. , stages without vaccinations.
Finally, things are starting to be written at least a little critically. Were or are these measures necessary and effective? Isn’t it time to return to a “normal” government without decrees and without declaration of emergency? The last two years could shake confidence in the government. Unfortunately, there was also a great polarization of society.
Did Australia or its states offer benefits to their citizens at this time? For example, due to border closures, New Zealand has introduced a four-day working week so that people can at least travel within their country and at the same time tourism does not fail.
I am not aware of any major benefits being offered. Of course, all governments have provided support to individuals and businesses during lockdowns and various other restrictions.
What impact has the situation had on you and your family?
Since our family belongs to the minority of the unvaccinated 5%, our situation has obviously changed – and not only because we have not been able to travel.
My wife Jana has been on unpaid leave since the beginning of this year and luckily I can continue to work, although I have to work from home most of the time. Some bans are quite amusing – like the ban on entering unvaccinated liquor stores, which was lifted after the liquor lobby complained about declining sales.
Interestingly, most of our Czech friends are in the same situation as us – the government probably wasn’t able to convince us as well.
Why is it?
This may be due to a worse historical experience with national governments or even better access to information from around the world. I think a lot of us trust our own immunity and don’t understand why vaccination should be widespread when covid is not that dangerous for the vast majority of people – why not just vaccinate risk groups ?
You have lived in Australia for eighteen years, what made you stay here?
We were lucky at first to head to Perth. There is a relaxed lifestyle – beautiful beaches, many parks, a great place for families with children. We also have a subtropical climate ideal for year-round outdoor activities. Thanks to this, I started with long triathlons and ultramarathons “on my old knees”.
Interesting people, of course – thanks to almost daily sunshine, Western Australians are (for the most part) positive and smiling. Australia is also probably the best place to experience different cultures. But I still consider myself and will consider myself a Czech living in Australia, not a Czech Australian.
Australia has opened up to travelers again – what strict measures await tourists here?
Australia is open to tourists vaccinated with two doses. Interestingly, if Australian citizens from the East are to arrive in Western Australia, they must be vaccinated with three doses – which is the responsibility of the Western Australian government. This can hardly be reasonably justified.
Is the country considering measures to promote tourism or is it still cautious?
Given that tourism (and overseas students) are a relatively large source of revenue for government budgets, everyone is certainly trying to attract tourists and students – but given the last couple of years Australia hasn’t wanted to let anyone in, it will probably be quite difficult. Moreover, current relations with China, where most students and, to some extent, tourists have come from, are frosty.
How resolved is the war in Ukraine in Australia now?
Ukraine is simply far away for Australians – Australia, of course, joined in sanctions against Russia and aid to Ukraine, but the main problem is certainly not there, although the prices of gasoline are certainly more and more discussed due to the global rise in oil prices. This is a much more sensitive subject for us ‘central Europeans’ living in Australia – after all, they are fighting near the Slovakian border and millions of Ukrainians are fleeing to Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
What is Australia’s policy for accepting refugees from Ukraine?
To date, Australia has taken in around 4,000 refugees and will certainly not be able to resist taking in large numbers. Australia makes a strict distinction between illegal refugees, to which it has a really tough approach, and legal refugees, to which it is certainly open. More recently, to those who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban victory.
In the Czech Republic, on the other hand, there is very little talk of the recent floods in eastern Australia. Were they also the number one topic in the West, or is it too big a country for that?
Flooding in Queensland and New South Wales has certainly pushed covid out of the news in recent days, although we in the West are having more drought and fire issues. There are several temperature records this summer, such as thirteen days with high temperatures above forty degrees in Perth or a historic Australian balanced high temperature of 50.7 degrees in the Western Australian town of Onslow.