The document that guided Australia through the COVID-19 pandemic

Professor Brendan Murphy's COVID-19 pandemic plan goes on display

Community Development
Professor Brendan Murphy with his copy of the government's COVID-19 plan. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Professor Brendan Murphy with his copy of the government's COVID-19 plan. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

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The ACT Australian of the Year has chosen the document to feature in an exhibition of significant objects that belong to award nominees.

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The federal government's COVID-19 pandemic plan is Australia's most important document of 2020.

And the copy belonging to Professor Brendan Murphy might just be the most significant.

It might be worse for wear, it's dog-eared and coffee-stained, but it guided Professor Murphy as he led the nation through the pandemic.

The former chief health officer's copy of the plan has gone on display at the National Museum of Australia, after he ACT Australian of the year chose his copy to feature in an exhibition of significant objects belonging to award nominees.

Professor Murphy, who is now secretary of the Department of Health, said he would be able to recite a lot of the plan. He said he thought the principles of communication were among the most crucial parts of the document.

"There was lots of ideology out there - people wanted to aggressively eliminate or let the virus go - but we had to take a balanced middle course, which I think we did very well," he said.

"So make sure we tell the community what we know, what we don't know and what we are going and bring their trust with us.

"We call on the community to do some extraordinary things and if we hadn't been open and trusting with them that might not have happened."

NSW Australian of the year Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

NSW Australian of the year Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The NSW Australian of the Year, Shane Fitzsimmons, chose to exhibit a bronze nozzle that was gifted to him by his former volunteer brigade when he became the NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner in 2007.

The nozzle sat on Mr Fitzsimmons' desk as he led the fight against NSW's worst bushfire season. He said it served as a reminder of where he started as a volunteer.

"Trying to find something that told your story in an object was a real challenge but when I reflected on the enormity of the season and what I had unfolded, I ultimately couldn't go past my little keepsake," he said.

"What I have learnt over the years is that belonging to something, having a sense of purpose, having a sense of belonging but ultimately being able to make a difference and make a difference in your community really matters ... volunteers are at the heart of it all."

Mr Fitzsimmons, who is now the head of Resilience NSW, also reflected on the 2019-20 bushfire season.

Saturday will mark one year since two volunteer firefighters, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer, were killed while fighting a bushfire south-west of Sydney.

National Museum director Dr Mathew Trinca said the objects brought a sense of hope for the future, in a year of immense challenges.

"After such a challenging year we are honoured to feature these deeply personal and inspiring objects selected by eight exceptional individuals," he said.

"Many of the recipients have overcome adversity to drive change in society and contribute to the world. It is these stories we need to hear in times of difficulty, stories that give us hope and inspire us to make change."

The exhibition's curator, Dr Lily Withycombe, said: "What I love about this exhibition is how these unexpected, personal objects help everyone to connect with these extraordinary Australians."

The story The document that guided Australia through the COVID-19 pandemic first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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