2020 is a year that will be remembered for diverse reasons: fires we haven’t seen the like of for decades; an unprecedented global pandemic; trade tensions between major nations; and a US election, albeit on the other side of the planet, that will have ramifications for Australia.
By Peter Horvat
Photo: Britt Gaiser
The repercussions will change how we work and relate to each other for a long time to come. It is hard to look back over the year and see more than the stress, the challenges and, for many, the loss. Hardest of all to comprehend and deal with is the apparent randomness of it all, the vagaries of the impacts. Why did the fires and the coronavirus affect some people, houses, businesses and communities, but missed others right beside them?
Nonetheless, the community spirit remains strong and resilient. Many gave time, money and products to those in need.
We found ourselves reaching out to friends, family and stakeholders. Instead of just ‘business as usual’, this contact took a deeper meaning and broke the dimension of isolation that many people were feeling – especially for those doing a 14-day quarantine.
As some normalcy returns to life in Australia and the year comes to an end, the FRDC looks back at what has been achieved, starting with the centre four pages of this magazine, which is a summary of the Annual Report for 2019-20.
A big part of 2020 was the focus on communications and engagement. Despite not being able to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, our staff spent a lot of time reaching out to researchers, industry members and managers across the spectrum of fishing and aquaculture to touch base and see how they were coping. Even as I write this for the last issue of FISH magazine for the year, we have the 2020 stakeholder survey out for comment and feedback. From this survey and some specific research, the FRDC is developing a COVID-19 report to capture the impacts of this incredible year.
This year, we delivered a bumper value pack for FISH magazine, producing five editions – including two COVID-19 issues – as well as starting the Message in a Bottle newsletter. If you haven’t seen it, sign up here. A special thank you to the team at Coretext and, in particular, Catherine Norwood, who assisted with FISH magazine this year.
The FRDC Research and Development Plan 2020-2025 was finalised and approved by the Minister for Agriculture. This starts a new five-year R&D investment cycle at the FRDC that will bring with it some changes. The first was to open up the planning process and offer anyone who was interested the opportunity to participate – for more details click here.
This approach has come as a result of feedback that meetings were closed and for a limited few. The developments in online meeting platforms will help make future meetings more open and allow for greater input from stakeholders who want to be part of the process.
Speaking of technological change, if COVID-19 has done anything, it has spurred major changes in technology and its use. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Facetime are now an everyday part of our lives. It has replaced many of the traditional meetings we would participate in and helped keep us connected. While these meetings serve a purpose and are useful, they don’t fully replace the experience of face-to-face gatherings with people on farms or boats.
Another major achievement this year has been the formation of Agricultural Innovation Australia, a partnership between the rural R&D corporations to drive investment and innovation on the big, hairy, cross-cutting issues that all sectors face.
As Christmas approaches, the FRDC would like to wish all our stakeholders a safe, seafood-filled holiday season. This year, we can be thankful for:
- the many health workers and emergency services personnel who work across Australia and the world. This year has been tough for them and we give our thanks;
- our own physical and mental health. We think of those who have dealt with disease and loss through the year;
the seafood producers, and other primary producers, who supplied our glorious food. For many, the year has been tough but they have perservered, and for that we give thanks;
- our wonderful weather. Last year, we were in the midst of savage drought and facing fire storms. This year, we think of all the wondrous rain and revel in the life it has brought across Australia;
- the new technology that connects us each and every day with our customers, stakeholders and friends. We can be grateful that this year we swapped ready-to-go overnight travel bags for Zoom, Teams, and Facetime meetings, but that the end is now in sight and we can get back to seeing each other face-to-face;
- the freedoms we cherish so much in Australia, and the fact that our communities are resilient enough to endure temporary restrictions to save and protect those who are most at risk;
- our families and friends, and even acquaintances who we recognise in passing with a smile and a nod. While we may not know each other that well, we give thanks knowing that if we were in real trouble all would lend a hand; and lastly,
- looking to the future and what it will bring: a vaccine, travel and plenty of seafood.