Less than a month ago, life changed significantly for Shepparton and Goulburn Valley residents.
The area had been relatively free of coronavirus (COVID-19) until August 20.
Within two weeks, the Shepparton cluster had grown to more than 120 cases and almost a third of its population was in isolation.
Schools and businesses closed, supermarkets and essential services are struggling to meet demand and the Australian Defence Force is helping with emergency management.
Like many of you in our community, this has caused me great angst to see family, friends and neighbours put under this type of pressure.
And while the current situation is concerning and affecting so many of our staff and customers, it has also been heart-warming to see the generosity of people and how our regional communities band together and support each other during these tough times.
Victorians from across our local and regional communities have offered assistance to family, friends, neighbours and even complete strangers to ensure they have basic supplies and medicines to get them through their isolation periods.
Many of those people who have been isolating are Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) employees.
My team has demonstrated amazing resilience, adapting to staff shortages; with many colleagues having to isolate.
Staff who haven’t been affected have jumped in to pick up extra work to cover their colleagues who are unable to work; or had to shuffle, or re-prioritise work in some areas to ensure we are getting our essential jobs completed in other areas.
It makes me proud our staff are demonstrating our GMW values of courage and caring across our communities.
It is in challenging times such as these that we need to come together and do what we can to help.
Whether that’s pitching in for a workmate or grabbing some necessities for your elderly neighbour who can’t leave home; or donating food and essentials to those less fortunate.
Thanks to the GV Cares network, volunteers have rallied to help deliver essentials to the thousands in quarantine.
GV Cares is an initiative by Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project, which is the brainchild of Lisa McKenzie – wife of our board member David McKenzie.
Lisa and her volunteers are some of the community’s most caring; delivering food, essentials such as medicines and nappies, and necessary services to the most vulnerable.
If you’re unable to help out in these ways, it doesn’t mean you can’t play your part.
You can do that by doing the right things – staying home, getting tested when you have symptoms and booking your COVID vaccine.
I am proud to say I and the GMW Board are fully vaccinated.
It was a no-brainer for me as I believe this is the only way to protect others and myself and getting back to a life of travel and social interaction.
We have had a long history of vaccination in Australia which has allowed us to safely travel and eradicate a number of diseases.
I encourage all our staff and those in the community to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.
The Victorian Government recently launched the Voices for Vaccine campaign, announcing a target of one million vaccines by September 19.
We all know there's a lot of talk out there about the COVID-19 vaccine.
But when it comes to your health, the one talk you should have is with a doctor or pharmacist.
They can answer any questions you have and give you the information you need.
I would urge everyone no matter how young or old, to get informed and get vaccinated.
Finally, I would like to praise the Shepparton community for their efforts so far.
When faced with adversity, we discover what we are made of.
Hardship can make or break you, as the saying goes.
Shepparton has shown Victoria; and indeed the country; how it’s done.
We are a diverse community of more than 60,000 people, from all walks of life, with different cultures and beliefs.
But today we stand united as one.