Loneliness of the long-distance Victorian

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The Victorian potato cake, aka the NSW potato scallop.

Expat Victorian EDDIE WILLIAMS finds himself in a strange kind of purgatory; family and friends are but an hour’s flight away and yet they may as well be at the North Pole…  

ONLY a few weeks ago, I was making plans to travel down the south coast, through Gippsland and eventually into Melbourne to visit my parents while I’m on annual leave.

Eddie Williams

As you can imagine, those plans are now well and truly on the back burner.

I was planning to enter Victoria on Sunday, July 5, spend a night in Gippsland, and reach Melbourne the next day. I would’ve been at home for mum’s birthday, bearing gifts from the coast. 

But with the state’s coronavirus caseload surging, I scrapped the trip a week or two earlier, deciding to travel only as far as Narooma. Sadly, my decision was vindicated when – on the day I would’ve reached Melbourne – Victoria recorded another spike and NSW announced it would shut the border. 

It’s a strange time being an expat Victorian. There are quite a few of us in Canberra, as you’d expect in a city with so many interstate migrants. If you go all the way back to the movement of federal parliament from Melbourne to Canberra in 1927 and the transfer of the federal public service over subsequent years, it’s not surprising that many Melburnians came here. 

And they’ve continued to come, lured by work in the public service, the embassies and the media, and perhaps responsible for the proliferation of Aussie Rules goalposts and a general “Melbourne vibe” in places such as Manuka and the inner north.

Hundreds of thousands of families around the world have lost loved ones during this pandemic, while millions of others are unable to see their loved ones. 

For those living in Canberra, but with ties to Victoria, it’s a strange kind of purgatory. Our family and friends are merely an hour’s flight or a day’s drive away. And yet they may as well be at the North Pole. 

If I’m being optimistic, perhaps I’ll be able to visit Melbourne safely on the Labour Day long weekend in October. Christmas is probably more realistic. But who knows what the situation will be next week, let alone in December. 

Change is difficult at the best of times. Right now, though, we don’t know what will change or when. We can’t plan that next birthday or Father’s Day or Christmas lunch. And it’s the uncertainty that’s leaving so many people on edge.

So if you know an expat Victorian living in Canberra, keep an eye on them. We wouldn’t mind a potato cake to cheer us up.

[Editor’s note: The term “potato cake” is the curious description preferred by Victorians (and Tasmanians), even though it is not a cake. It is what we, NSW, Queensland and WA would know better as a “potato scallop”.]

Eddie Williams is an award-winning producer at 2CC. 

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