How Australians Seek Connection in Isolation

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Besha Rodell, a columnist with the Australia bureau.

Every couple of days for the past few weeks, I have clambered onto my roof from the small patio on our second floor. I hoist up a pillow, our pet parrot Chobi in his cage, and a couple of beers or a glass of wine. Then I peer over the lip of the roof, and into the backyard of the house across the alleyway, where a friendly face is waiting.

My friend Brooke has lived in the house across the lane from our townhouse for over a year, and we rely on one another for normal neighborly things like borrowed ingredients and reciprocal pet feeding when one of us is out of town. But since coronavirus has made us all prisoners in our own homes, we have been holding regular catch-ups across the laneway, me from my roof and her from her backyard.

I call this “isolation happy hour.”

Before Victoria went into stage three lockdown, barring people from leaving home for anything but the most necessary activities, my brother and his partner would walk over from their home a few blocks away and set up lawn chairs in the alley, far enough from me on the roof and Brooke in her backyard to maintain appropriate distance, but close enough so that we could feel some sense of communion. That option is gone now, but Brooke is still there when I need her, and vice versa.

Apart from the obvious fear, anxiety and disruption, the thing that has struck me the most about the current crisis is the resourcefulness of our attempts to remain responsibly connected.

Why should we not always have virtual birthday parties with those who are far away? Why don’t I use Netflix Party to watch movies with my sister in the USA all the time?

My hope is that when this is all over, our close connections will feel even closer, and we will continue to find creative ways to stay connected to people who are further than across the alleyway.

What creative methods have you been using to stay connected during lockdown? Let us know at

Here are this week’s stories:

  • When Humans Are Sheltered in Place, Wild Animals Will Play. Goats in Wales; coyotes in San Francisco; rats, rats, everywhere: With much of the world staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, animals have ventured out where normally the presence of people would keep them away.

  • Covid-19 Changed How the World Does Science, Together. Never before, scientists say, have so many of the world’s researchers focused so urgently on a single topic. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt.

  • At Home. It’s a scary time for some, and an unsettled one for nearly all. But art and books and beautiful things are still possible to see and read and think about. We have games to play, hilarious chores to attend to, music to blast and performances to cherish. Deliciousness is available at the stove. Our reporters and critics want to tell you about it.

  • Long-Silenced Victim of a Pedophile Writer Gets to Tell Her Story. For decades, the writer Gabriel Matzneff used Francesca Gee’s image and letters to champion his sexual pursuit of adolescents. But her own account was rejected, until now.

Last week, we wrote about the plight of Australia’s pubs, restaurants and cafes, and asked about aspects of Australian culture you’re worried about losing. Here’s one reader’s response:

Five years ago, on hiatus between jobs I launched a slow fashion blog. I sensed there was a movement emerging in Melbourne; a refulgent entrepreneurialism in the big old warehouses of Brunswick, Northcote and Kensington.

For me, there’s no delight like walking down Gertrude Street in Fitzroy and finding a dinky little linen shift dress with a quirky collar that was made by the designer/machinist sitting at the back of the shop. These independent fashion labels are as intrinsic to Melbourne as the old Victorian cottages lining the laneways of Richmond. Many will be sunk by what is happening and they are fragile little ecosystems at the best of times.

I cherish my wardrobe of Melbourne made fashion…it has even greater value now.

— Megan Sloley

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