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“Dad, is Brisbane another country?” asked my son.

3 September 2020

I often think about my friends and families that live in the ‘big smoke’ – living where and how I once knew as my standard daily life to be, but now with unprecedented restrictions on many of our lives due to Coronavirus I could only try to imagine their pain, their fear, their anxiety? My experience of previously living in a small apartment, in a large complex, has granted me perspective in today’s world, but not before I respect the challenges my friends and family are going through.

As I sat in the car with our family driving to our rural home of now five years I reflected on how lucky I was, how lucky we were as a family, to live and enjoy our lifestyle free from the intensity of city living, free from sky-rise shadows, free from hustle & bustle of pedestrian crossings, traffic jams, packed restaurants or lack of parking spaces in the shopping mall. The claustrophobia of a city that tests the strongest of wills and the toughest mentally in these challenging times. I felt comfort in knowing that I was lucky enough to live a life that provided lifestyle, space to move outdoors and self-sufficiency for my family.

Humans are social creatures and if we don’t get to see, touch and hear each other our minds start to take over with imposter syndrome and self-victimisation. For me it’s about maintaining a sense of perspective, a strong mind presence to push through walls that inevitably will always be there. Maintaining resolve and process knowing that we always get through it – because, when we stick together as a team, as leaders, we get through – we just do.

Reflecting on these points on our journey this day I found myself thinking of my ARLP family and wondered how they were all fairing under the current circumstances. They are a strength that I use regularly, to motivate and challenge me when my walls are thick and seemingly unbreakable – they are the tool I use to build walls, or break them down. Suddenly I was inspired to bring this family together – my ARLP Course 24 cohort. 

I recall during our last ARLP session in Canberra 2018 that there was talk of a reunion in three years time…face-to-face obviously. Unfortunately we all know the current global conditions and travel restrictions, so at the risk of zoom overload, we decided to organise a ‘virtual reunion‘. 24th July 2020 was three years to the day that we met as a group in Darwin for our first ARLP session – to me it made sense to bring us all together on this day, to see and to hear each other, to offer hope that we will, as a community get through this crisis and come out the other side ready to rebuild and eventually have our face-to-face reunion. 

We had three questions to prepare for our zoom meeting;

  1. Since ARLP share a leadership challenge that you have had key learning from.
  2. Select one main leadership highlight since ARLP – tell us in a few words.
  3. If you have one message to your C24 cohort, what would it be?
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As I watched and listened to the C24 cohort take turns to comment I remember thinking how proud I was that we, as Rural, Regional and Remote Australians have one main thing in common – it’s always been an Australian trait – we fight, we don’t give up and we make sure that every challenge is used as an opportunity. The group was excited to see each other, but even more so in a world where we can’t travel, we can’t cross borders, we can’t give our mates a hug or shake their hands, Brisbane might-as-well be in another country. 

It is hard times for some, but one thing I learnt that day – bringing people together in today’s world is easier than it has ever been. We just need to let go of the ‘touch’ aspect for another time. For now, make the most of our resources and turn them into opportunities. Zoom-overload is real, but for betterment, virtual reunions are the way to go.

ARLP C24 – it was great to see you all and I look forward to Reunion #2!

Grant Melrose