Bending, not broken: One family’s journey through a year of shattered dreams

Each day this month, we will publish Tales of 2020, the stories of ordinary Queenslanders enduring an extraordinary year. Today, we meet Melissa Wearne, whose grown family has been rocked, and almost devastated, by coronavirus shut-downs.

Dec 16, 2020, updated Dec 16, 2020
The shutdown of VFL football was another blow to the family  (AAP Image/ David Crosling)

The shutdown of VFL football was another blow to the family (AAP Image/ David Crosling)

Before and After…

At the beginning of 2020, our family situation looked like this:

Stephen was working in his dream job for the AFL Qld, Coaching, Talent and Engagement Co- ordinator.

Melissa was working as an Education Consultant for Oxford University Press and they were both attending CrossFit Brisbane on a regular basis. They were looking forward to a trip to New York booked for the Easter period.

Mackenzie (24 years) was living and working in Brisbane.

Campbell (23 years) had moved to Melbourne in late 2018 to play football. He had signed a contract with the Western Bulldogs VFL team early this year after a great season with Doutta Stars, Essendon District League. He had an apprenticeship as an Industrial Plumber and was visiting Brisbane as often as possible, while we flew down and visited him on a regular basis.

Harrison (20 Years) had a two-year work visa approved to return to Canada to reunite with his girlfriend and work at back-to-back camps. He was working three jobs to save money while playing local football with Coorparoo AFC.

Thompson (17 years) was in his final year of school and playing football for Morningside AFC.

Then came Covid -19

Stephen was stood down from the AFL in March then made redundant in August, effective from 16 October. The AFL was heavily impacted when the top-level teams could not play. They rely on advertising through TV and other media, costing them millions of dollars.

When the competition finally got up and running, teams and families were moved interstate due to the outbreak of COVID in Victoria. Moving forward, the business has had to reduce expenditure by 30-40%, resulting in redundancies and job losses.

Melissa was reduced to a four-day week for a period of eight weeks. Fortunately, the company qualified for JobKeeper. Once this finishes, the company will be looking at reducing costs.

There is currently very limited contact with schools which affects sales. I attended Parklands Christian College which had a COVID positive case, so I had to be tested and self-isolate until I returned a negative result.

Both Stephen and I had to give up CrossFit for a period of time as we both have contact with elderly, at-risk parents. Our New York trip was cancelled, and we lost our money.

Last week, after returning from a much-needed weekend away, my car was stolen from the driveway. It contained over six thousand dollars’ worth of content. We were informed by police who told us there has been a big increase in opportunistic crime as a result of COVID.

Mackenzie moved to Melbourne, with his partner Ally in late July. He was transferred for work and was excited to be closer to his brother Campbell. They are best mates.

They only got to see each other twice before going into stage four lockdown. They live further than five kilometres apart so are not able to visit each other now. Ally’s job was put on hold and Mackenzie has had two COVID tests due to a co-worker testing positive. He is currently in quarantine.

Campbell’s footy is cancelled. There is no VFL and Essendon District League could not afford to run a season without the crowds. He had the chance to play country football, but this has now been cancelled as well. The poor guy is extremely homesick and is currently in stage four lockdown. He can still work but they are restricted to five on a job site.

Our family is extremely close. Normally, there would have been numerous weekends where he would have flown to Brisbane to see us, or his brothers would have flown down to hang out with him.

Harrison lost his three casual jobs within a two-week period and did not qualify for any government financial assistance. His football is cancelled. The camps in Canada are all cancelled. Social events where he would normally decompress are restricted.

He was not able to return to be reunited with his girlfriend. His dream of relocating to Canada was taken away. Harry became very sick as a result of compounding stress and anxiety. His mental health plummeted. He attempted suicide and was hospitalised in May.

We were devastated and hospital staff told us that they are seeing a big increase in mental health issues and suicide. We are forever grateful we were on high alert with our son and that he is now being supported by a great health team.

Thompson has had a very disrupted final year at school. Schools closed for periods of time and school trips were cancelled. With social events once again reduced to ten people, all those rites of passage associated with year twelve were essentially cancelled.

No eighteenth celebrations, formals, or end of year celebrations. No schoolies.

It is a year that we will never forget.

Melissa Wearne is married with four adult sons. She is a senior consultant with Oxford University Press.

This article was first published in Stories from the Heart, an e-book edited by Dr Johanna Skinner and editor Jane Connolly, and is republished with their permission.  


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