‘Nobody told me they’d be days like these; Strange days indeed, most peculiar Mama!’ (Nobody told me, John Lennon). As I write these words, over half of the Australian population is living under various lockdown measures: Sydney is entering its 8th week of lockdown, now with additional NSW regions extending beyond the metropolitan area, up to the Queensland and Victoria borders. Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and even the ACT have been, or are continuing to be affected. What started with isolated cases in June quickly escalated to impact the whole of Australia. There is little doubt that our closed international borders and our geographical location (an isolated, albeit large, island) have contributed to complacency regarding our approach to the management of this virus. In particular, our low vaccination rate has made Australia a prime target for the highly virulent COVID-19 Delta variant.
On behalf of the society, I would like to send my best wishes to all the families affected by COVID-19, be it for medical or economic reasons. In addition to the impact of the virus itself, numerous studies are clearly demonstrating that the uncertainty about the future caused by the pandemic, combined with the physical and social isolation is impacting on our mental as well as our physical wellbeing. My thoughts particularly go to all the most vulnerable segments of the population, including First Nation communities, homeless and socially isolated people, individuals with mental health or cognitive difficulties, rural and remote communities who are also battling climate change emergencies.
As clinicians, carers, researchers, this pandemic is challenging us in ways not encountered before. With this challenge, however, comes opportunities. We now need to adapt to this new reality and be innovative in how we can provide services, and support individuals who need us, and also in how we can continue our research activities. One example is the recent 6th Pacific Rim Conferences organised by ASSBI, together with the International Neuropsychological Society and the APS College of Clinical Neuropsychologists. Originally planned as a hybrid meeting, the organising committee led by Dana Wong, Travis Wearne and Kerryn Pike and supported by Margaret Eagers, made the decision to move to a fully online conference at very short notice. They were able to make the best of interactive communication and meeting technology. This flexible approach led to a resounding success with over 720 delegates attending the conference. What we lost in face-to-face interactions, we gained in flexibility and capacity to attend more sessions than would have been otherwise possible. My sincere thanks and congratulations to the organising committee for this tremendous achievement.
Undoubtedly, the road ahead is likely to be long. If anything, these recent weeks have clearly demonstrated that we are not different to the rest of the world and that the best way out of this will be through systematic and high-level vaccinations that must be made available to all. Despite this uncertain time, I remain hopeful that my next Words from the President will come to you from the other side of this lockdown. You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one (Imagine, John Lennon).
In the meantime, stay safe, be kind to yourself and to others.
Olivier Piguet, President