Dec 23, 2019


Across the country Australians are breathing a sigh of relief. We’ve just about made it to the end of 2019. This is the perfect time to find a spot in the shade with a cool drink in hand.

It’s the time to relax and catch up with family and friends. The time when everything, including the political cycle, slows down just a bit.

Of course, for Christians, this is an important time to reaffirm their faith.

But it’s important to remember that for some of us, the end of the year can be a little harder.

Farming communities face the reality of a drought with no end in sight and a hot summer ahead.

Unfortunately, communities are becoming more familiar with the smell of smoke than with its absence. This year, families affected by the bushfires might be celebrating Christmas away from their properties.

Some may have lost their homes and the memories they contain in the flames.

It is also a time of year when many Australians experience loss in the most profound way. Around the Christmas lunch table, a loved one might be missing for the first time. An old friend you called for counsel is no longer at the end of the telephone line.

These days are a time of reflection and memory as well as a time of celebration.

Many of us look forward to the end-of-year work drinks, Boxing Day barbecues and the Test cricket.

But there are those who might be missing out. Earlier this year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that one in four Australians are lonely. For those who grapple with mental health issues or family dislocation, the months of December and January can be a heightened period of period of anxiety about what lies ahead in 2020.

And this year, Christmas isn’t bringing the break that many families need. Despite putting in the hours at work, Australians are struggling with continuing low wages growth.

It can be hard to enjoy those special moments on Christmas morning when you’re worried about electricity bills and the cost of getting food on the table.

Sometimes it can feel like the festive preparations are never ending. And although it is slowly improving, the share and stress of unpaid work at home still rests disproportionately on the shoulders of women.

But while there are those of us who will experience adversity, I also know that Australians step up when others are struggling. In our hearts, we believe in fairness and generosity. Now is the time when we can put those values into action.

So, while it is important to take a well-deserved break, consider this: why not pick up the phone to the family member you haven’t heard from for a while? Check in on that friend you’ve been worried about and ask if they’re doing OK. It is these little gestures that help to strengthen the social fabric of our community.

And don’t forget to be a little more kind to those who work around the clock. Say thanks to our doctors and nurses, hospitality and retail workers and our emergency service workers and the volunteers who might not be getting the time with loved ones that they deserve.

The festive season is fun, but it isn’t always easy. Each one of us can pitch in and help make it better for those who might be doing it tough.

After all, isn’t that what spirit of Christmas in Australia is all about?

Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party.

This piece was published by the Herald Sun on Monday 23 December 2019.