Updated: Aug 12
Living with stage 4 restrictions hasn’t been easy, especially for the people in the Maribyrnong region in Melbourne, who went back into lockdown weeks before the rest of Victoria. But spirits have been high and the locals seem to have adopted a “we can do this” attitude that has everyone smiling at each other behind their masks and making friendly conversation while waiting in the queue at the post office and grocery stores.
Melbourne locals are feeling a sense of connectedness while simultaneously feeling cut off from the rest of the country. But the strength of local community has been found in focussing on the small positives. Such as Monday afternoon, when I was out for my government sanctioned one hour of daily exercise in Maribyrnong.
Walking along the river trail just after 1pm, I came upon a scattered group of people facing the Maribyrnong river near Van Ness Ave, phones held high, oooing and ahhing at the water. I looked over to see a shiny flipper breach the water and slap back down with ferocity.
“Is it a dolphin?” I said to a masked man nearby who was leaning on his bike. He said it was, and that it had been around since this morning (clearly he isn’t obeying the strict one hour a day rule then. haha) I edged closer to the river and saw a shiny black creature spring up out of the water with a fish half the size of it’s body clenched between it’s teeth. “A seal. It’s a seal!” I said excitedly, like a little kid at a theme park. This isn’t the first time a seal has made an appearance in Melbourne’s rivers, but it’s certainly the first time I’ve seen a seal in this river, which I have been frequenting daily for the past two years.
The cute critter splashed around and smacked it’s catch against the water’s surface over and over again, reminding me of my sister’s adorable toy poodle when he gets hold of my Havianas and rips them to shreds. There was a socially distant crowd building, kids enthusiastically telling their parents that this is going to be great for show-and-tell, while grandmothers gasped in shock at the seal’s violent explosions from the water with the frayed and bloodied large fish dangling from it’s mouth. All in all, it was an exciting event for a community who have been in lockdown a little longer than anyone else in Australia. We might be going a slightly loopy whilst being deprived of community entertainment, and we might be a little more excited about things like this than normal, but it really is all about enjoying the brief moments of respite between heavy global news and grim prospects, and it’s these small things that keep us going.
(My seal footage was featured on the Guardian's live blog on Tuesday the 11th of August 2020: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/video/2020/aug/11/seal-in-suburban-melbourne-river-brings-bright-spot-during-grim-stage-four-lockdown-video)
Alicia Pavlis is an actor, photographer and writer based in Melbourne Australia who is unable to work due to being in stage 4 lockdown. She is currently using her creative skills to make reusable cotton masks for her local community and is taking it all one day at a time with a positive outlook. To purchase a reusable cotton mask, visit Alicia's online store here: www.aliciapavlis.com/shop