August 27, 2020
At home

Expats at home – South Australians chat from Victoria vol.3

As Victoria continues their lockdown, we catch up with more former South Australians to see how they are.

Millie Thwaites at home in Brunswick.

Millie Thwaites

Where in Vic do you live?

Brunswick. We’re lucky to have a small garden and a few parks nearby, as well as Merri Creek. Even with the 5km restrictions, I’ve been able to maintain one pre-Covid ritual of a morning run either along the creek or around Princes Park.

What’s the feeling there at the moment?

It changes every week; there’s definitely a cycle of emotions that comes with the varying stages of lockdown. When Stage 4 restrictions were enforced, the feeling was undoubtedly grim and deflating. However after a few weeks we’ve adjusted again and settled back into our lockdown rhythms and routines.

The number of new cases has steadied this week so there’s a level of optimism in the air. However it does feel like you’re living on standby, waiting for the next round of announcements from the Government – a feeling I’m sure people the world over can relate to. I think Victorians are all desperately hoping the restrictions ease mid-September as spring arrives. Jasmine is starting to flower, the sun is up for slightly longer and we seem to be on the tail end of Melbourne’s winter – these are the small wins we’ve learnt to appreciate!

What do you do for work?

I work in marketing for a vintage furniture retailer and gallery, Modern Times. We’re a small, family run business based in Fitzroy. Welcoming people into our showroom and gallery is such a big part of what we do so it’s been a challenging time. Having said that, we have an online store and a really engaged, supportive online community so we’ve still felt very much in touch with our customers and audience.

How have you had to adapt in your role at work?

The nature of my role (marketing/e-commerce/copywriting) meant the transition to working from home was relatively smooth. I’ve been at home for nearly six months now so I’ve found my groove. However our showroom and gallery has been operating on and off in response to the restrictions (we were closed; then open by appointment; open with restricted visitors at any one time; back to open by appointment and now only via video consultation – a complete rollercoaster). I usually work surrounded by incredible vintage furniture and contemporary art and design so working from the kitchen table is an adjustment! Zoom, Slack, FaceTime, emails and texts have replaced a simple face-to-face conversation but, like all things, it’s fascinating how quickly we adapt. We have a really small but close-knit team so everyone’s been supportive of each other.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is shifting our exhibitions from an in-store offering to a solely online experience. An exhibition is usually so immersive so we’ve really had to think outside the box to create the same buzz and energy and support the work of our artists. This has been such a trying time for so many people, and I think Victorians in particular are thirsty for inspiration and escapism so it’s actually been nice to provide that where we can.

How have you been spending your time away from work?

We’ve been trying to make our lockdown bubble as enjoyable as possible! We love cooking (and drinking wine) so we’ve been getting around that a lot. We’re pretty good at making an occasion out of nothing. There have been virtual dinner parties, weekly wine clubs, lots of reading and daily runs or walks around the neighbouring suburbs. While no-one would wish to be in this situation, it has been a welcome opportunity to adopt a slower pace and enjoy the simple things.


Lucy Edginton

Birthday celebrations lockdown-style.

Where in VIC do you live?

I live in Essendon, Victoria.

What is the feeling there at the moment?

It feels very surreal. A very unusual time we are currently living in, that’s for sure. The streets of Melbourne are a bit eerie and quiet like you’ve never seen before. One positive is that there is no peak hour traffic or traffic jams like there typically would be! My most recent shifts flying out of Melbourne Airport, it was a ghost town. No cars coming or going and a handful of people throughout the terminals.

What do you do for work?

The past seven years I have been in the aviation industry, which unfortunately has been impacted very hard. After being stood down from my role as Cabin Crew earlier in the year, I took the ample spare time to put my skills to use elsewhere temporarily and got offered an amazing opportunity: a role within the COVID-19 Incident Response and Emergency Management team amongst the Department of Health and Human Services. This role has been working from home, monitoring the welfare of guests in hotel quarantine. This has been a challenging but very rewarding opportunity!

Lucy’s new job is to monitor the welfare of guests in hotel quarantine.

How have you been spending your time away from work?

Away from work, I have been spending my time exercising (one hour outside my home for a run or walk to obey the current lockdown restrictions, and then at home we set up a gym room for strength/weights training), cooking and baking, having lots of “virtual” catch-ups with family and friends, and online shopping! I’ve done a big clean out throughout my house as well as some gardening. Something pretty cool I have done during the lockdown, was pulling apart an old washing machine to take the drum out and built it into a fire pit!

My birthday was recently during stage 4 lockdown, definitely a different kind of birthday this year but I got spoilt at home and had a bit of a virtual birthday party!


Antonia Makkar

Antonia with husband Reymon.

Where in do you live?

We – my husband Reymon, our dachshund Moses and I – live in St Kilda.

What’s the feeling there at the moment?

Exhaustion and frustration. The first time around it felt temporary and some parts were “fun” along with that feeling of having time to get to things we would never normally have the opportunity to complete.

In the first lockdown we’d bake something new on Sundays, have Zoom dinner parties and trivia with friends; this time around we are over it – virtual fatigue really hit in iso 2.0! We have still kept a weekly Sunday night dinner with my family where we eat a meal together.

What do you do for work?

I am the General Manager, Philanthropy at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute (an independent medical research institute focusing on heart, diabetes and related complications research). I manage a team of seven and am responsible for the major gift fundraising for the Institute including a multimillion dollar capacity campaign.

Thankfully my work has not changed or been directly impacted – we have managed to adapt to working differently and have found ways to make the most out of this situation.

At work – with new colleague, Moses.

How have you had to adapt in your role at work?

We were really cautious at the Institute from early on as the most important thing for us was to ensure that the scientists were able to remain on site (essential workers) so we had already started to trial a 50 per cent from home workforce for administration teams from early March. Once the announcement came from Scott Morrison on the “that” fateful Sunday night it was all systems go to pack up offices and get everyone set up at home, and calm – I will never forget the craziness and the 12 hour day packing up and moving myself and the team home! There were many unknowns, fear and uncertainty but now this is the “new normal”, I am proud how we have all adapted well. I quite enjoy working from home now with Ugg boots under the desk during Melbourne winter as a definite bonus, I am notorious for dressing from top up for Zoom meetings!

A lot of our (mine and my team’s) work is relationship management, which relies on face-to-face interactions requiring us to quickly pivot (is that not the most used word in 2020?) so to think of new ways to engage with our supporters. This has been very encouraging.
I do miss the “corridor conversations” and being able to pop up visit a scientist in their lab!

The physical morning coffee run with colleagues is also something I really enjoyed but my team and I catch up for half an hour every morning just to chat, even if most of it is spent recapping The Bachelor or The Block but it gives us a chance to continue to connect as if we were in person. In some cases, we have come together closer as a team being able to be in each other’s family room each morning.

How have you been spending your time away from work?

We are lucky to live within walking distance of St Kilda Beach as well as lots of great parks so we use our hour of exercise wisely and both get out for a run or walk the dog every day.

Cocktail hour! My husband has taken to perfecting his cocktail skills, so we have been enjoying exploring new recipes (making us feel like we’re on a beach in the European sun!). Sometimes on weekends cocktail hour seems to get earlier and earlier… Enjoying some fun weekend meals on our balcony from our favourite restaurants is also something we try to do regularly, setting up a trestle with tablecloth and the “good” plates and wine decanters. It also gives us an opportunity to get dressed out of our uniform usually consisting of active wear.

I have taken up cross stitch of an evening to wind down from work to avoid too much screen time – it has been a good test of patience and persistence for someone not crafty.

The most excitement in the day is the ringing of the bell when Australia Post has arrived – thankfully this time around I have been a little more restrained….

Dinner on the balcony.
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