Has COVID created a stronger sense of Canberran identity?

Zoya Patel 4 August 2021 6

We’re all in this together: the first COVID-19 vaccination in the ACT being administered in the ACT in late February. Photo: Michelle Kroll

Trying to explain to overseas friends the state of play in Australia’s COVID-19 response is no easy feat.

The distinction between our state and territory governments and federal responsibilities, combined with the sheer size of our country, is difficult to comprehend for some, especially those who live in more integrated countries with less divergent systems between regions.

In conversation with a friend recently, I found myself trying to explain how my experience of the pandemic has differed so extremely from friends in Victoria or NSW.

“Well, we have a much smaller population and fewer international arrivals,” I said. “But also, I just feel like Canberrans are compliant with health directions, and we all want to help everyone stay safe and businesses to stay open.”

There was a definite note of pride in my message. More and more, the pandemic is making me feel proud of being a Canberran, and I feel like this is reinforced by the general tone of the national conversation around vaccination rates and lockdowns.


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As Victoria and NSW argue about who has managed lockdowns more effectively and border closures become the source of state and territory arguments, our Australian identities are defined more by our allegiances locally than a sense of national unity.

It makes sense. The pandemic is being managed closely on a local level, and perhaps the only point of national consistency is the frustration with the federal rollout of vaccines.

But on a Canberra level, I’ve certainly noticed a stronger sense of communal values as we’ve weathered the threat of the delta variant reaching the capital.

People are so grateful for our relatively unscathed status through the pandemic and fiercely committed to maintaining it. There’s a sense of everyone needing to pull together to protect us from a lockdown, and if that means staying closed to friends and family in other states, so be it.


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I’ve noticed a strong sense of cooperation with businesses and venues regarding COVID-19 measures and people who don’t usually engage politically on public forums posting about getting vaccinated and the importance of doing so for Canberra’s safety from a return of the virus.

Is it just the circles I run in, or has the pandemic revealed a genuine and strong sense of Canberra identity? Is our success in the face of COVID down to a shared sense of values, especially when it comes to civic duty?

If so, I feel like this is a clear positive result of an otherwise difficult and stressful time. The key will be to maintain it as we move into the ongoing COVID-normal of the future.


What's Your Opinion?


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6 Responses to Has COVID created a stronger sense of Canberran identity?
JaseM JaseM 8:57 am 12 Aug 21

Yep, now let’s keep going! We will also adapt for the next challenge!

Judith White Judith White 5:17 pm 08 Aug 21

What a great article...As someone who has lived and raised my children in 4 States of Australia, and consider myself an Australian, rather than simply a Canberran, I do feel proud of the ACT and it's response to covid-19. It is still hard. I have not seen my adult children for about 2 years now, as they are living in other States and the opportunities for travel are slim. But when I hear the sad stories from NSW and Victoria, I am so grateful that so far, people here have protected each other and themselves. My children are fully vaccinated and compliant with the rules and 'lockdowns' they must suffer in other States, but how I wish they were here.... where we can still mix and be safe for now. I just hope it lasts...

Ailsa Turrell Ailsa Turrell 9:17 am 05 Aug 21

I agree - we have higher rates of vaccination here despite it being so difficult to get initially and I have not met anyone who is refusing to vaccinate.

Juz Hawke Juz Hawke 8:02 am 05 Aug 21

Definitely agree that Canberrans are mostly very compliant with the Covid rules, and very grateful we are largely unscathed. I don't agree that this has resulted in a better sense of community. I think we always had that. My thoughts only!!!

    Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 8:47 am 05 Aug 21

    Juz Hawke Agreed. We are also fortunate to have a bit of distance from Sydney to make Covid control a bit easier.

    Juz Hawke Juz Hawke 3:56 pm 05 Aug 21

    Ed N Joanne Towner for sure!

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