GRAI, in association with Acorn Photo proudly present 'Coming Out Of Covid', a series of beautiful LGBTIQ elder portraits accompanied by isolation anecdotes.

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AUNTY VANESSA

Lockdown? I love it – I love my own company – all those books, Foxtel, internet, my movie library…I went shopping yesterday – was sorry at first, took me awhile before I would go out.

When it began, the best way to deal with it was not to go anywhere. Now there’s a bit of a clearer picture, some grey areas… meantime, move about with caution. Usually I see my mother, 92, she’s sharp as a tack and deaf as a post. Now I’m quite comfortable, although I miss seeing my mother.

My sister and her grandchild visited the other day – I felt rather impacted by it… and guilty.When they placed restrictions to allow only 10 people to congregate, I worried about the funerals. As Aboriginal people we have massive funerals – who do you allow? We’re trying to do the right thing by staying away.

Lockdown? I love it – I love my own company – all those books, Foxtel, internet, my movie library…I went shopping yesterday – was sorry at first, took me awhile before I would go out.
AUNTY VANESSA
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NELL EWERT

I’m an introvert – so I’ve found it easy. Living on my own for 30 years, so nothing new! This crisis gives us opportunities to re-set our agendas individually and nationally. I want things to change permanently - I want to see changes in the structure, more fairness.

Deep down I would like to see a party-free government that addresses the ever-increasing divide in our society (and across the world). At an interpersonal level, we saw so much coming together and support – people dropped by with offers of help, saying we’re willing to do shopping or anything you want.

I’m thankful – when this dies down, it’s nice to know those contacts are there. Before I had 2 or 3 people to call on – now I have a few additions! The virus brought me unsought practical support so, in that regards, a great blessing.

GEOFF DAVIS

For me, it’s felt just normal – I don’t lead an active life – going out is not a big thing. I’ve learned to live within my limitations over the years.

I lost sight in one eye in 1977: ‘do I go on living or wrap myself in cotton wool?’

After that I came out as gay and went to Hong Kong!With COVID we’ve seen decreased emissions, the earth is a lot cleaner.

One hopes some politicians will pay attention. And this whole crisis has proved we can’t afford not to spend money on our health system.

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What should I regret, I’ve had a wonderful life – being able to do and participate in the things I need to do. The world is going to change enormously. It will be nice to be around to see it.

GEOFF DAVIS
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JANICE FRATER & LIZ MANN
I think the whole process has been an eye-opener for people about what and who is really important in our lives. I’d love to think what we’ve learnt could continue, even in a small part.
LIZ MANN

JANICE
I’ve been bemused by people’s reactions. It’s been a reality check... made people think ‘thank god I’m not over there’… shown up the bloody idiots, but also brought people together.

It’s been a shock to be in the ‘vulnerable group’. I’ve drifted through life with good health – never thought about it. It has made me more careful. The country’s finances might face change – more supporting local entrepreneurship. Back to the 70’s and Schumaker’s ‘Small is beautiful’!

LIZ
I grew up on a farm in Vic and a lot of things I learnt then have meant that this isolation and making the best of things, is not something new. Plus, newspaper was toilet paper when I was a kid!

I think the whole process has been an eye-opener for people about what and who is really important in our lives. I’d love to think what we’ve learnt could continue, even in a small part.

It’s brought out the best in most and the worst in a few. We’ve spent a lot of the time getting jobs done around the place, growing veggies, raising 2 new chooks and thinking about things for our future.

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MARION HOOD & TJALA LEYSLEY

MARION
Usually, we commit to busyness. We have been getting to those other jobs in the garden and house. We’re sorry it’s going to end! We’re together, it’s been a great time… walk... view the sunrise… the garden’s never looked so good!

TJALA
We realised we missed being social... the repair man came: it was a social event! I hope that we can keep the awareness of how important people are in our life. Valuing friendships, and other people we took for granted before, such as cleaners, rubbish collectors.

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JIM MORRISON & KEITH BODMAN

JIM
Normality – what is that? We can’t go back to normal. We are sick and tired of that normality. Go past any hospital – how many people outside are Aboriginal people? A lot of money is being thrown around – where was it prior to COVID? Homeless people – why not give provisions prior to COVID? We know 35 households not getting enough to eat. The problem is exacerbated as we can’t connect with the services.

 

KEITH
Both of us are subject to vicarious trauma. Now we are at home and relaxed when the bad news comes in, we can support each other and have periods of repose. But we’re more exposed to it – the past couple of months it’s been more reactive, being at home, not other colleagues around to absorb it. We are together 24/7 and we are around when triggered – that’s probably helped. We can say healing things that wouldn’t normally be said.

ANNE KEEHAN

I’m from New York so I’ve been following the New York scenario.
Seeing what’s happening there – I’m very happy about the bubble – we have a smaller population – that helps immensely.

I was at my retirement village community centre when the manageress strode in, and whipped off all the flyers advertising trips and dinners. She just ripped them all down – leaving a blank notice board!

I completely panicked when the toilet paper thing happened. Felt “I’m going to die here”. It feeds into what we’re doing – COVID pushed a button in me. I am completely on my own.

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When I lost Margaret, I would wake and start the entrance to the day, thinking 'Nobody gives a flying fuck whether I live or die'.

ANNE KEEHAN

I’m naturally gregarious and love playing to Full Houses, so to speak. As I once said. Fewer than fifty in the audience and I ain`t leaving the dressing room!

IVAN KING
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IVAN KING

Some days this Isolation caper was very trying for me. I felt as though I’d joined some obscure religious order and was in retreat.

I’m naturally gregarious and love playing to Full Houses, so to speak. As I once said. “Fewer than fifty in the audience and I ain`t leaving the dressing room!”  

Other days it was blissful with long walks by the River, across the Matagarup Bridge and a snoop around Burswood and Perth Stadium (I refuse to call it Optus).

Along the way I renewed my love of our native flowers and trees. Most of all I have been deeply touched by phone calls from younger friends, just checking up on me, asking how I was coping. That meant the world to me.

P.S. With Rottnest Island off limits one day I decided to circumnavigate Heirisson Island instead. Though two bolshy, fat pelicans squawkingly objected to my presence I enjoyed myself immensely. Try it.

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MARGARET SANDELWOOD

I asked Elizabeth to marry me. She turned round and said, “You haven’t got on your knees!” I made an attempt, but it was more of a curtsey! The blessing ceremony was my idea, and it was welcomed by the nursing home. Elizabeth was thrilled – it was a lovely thing to do, it was very joyous.That was February 28th, then the next week they closed. But I’m happy – better safe than sorry.

The hardest thing was not being able to visit Elizabeth. I was frightened at first that she would forget me – it’s been nearly 3 months. It had been very hard to see her through the window and she was distressed because she couldn’t touch me. I finally got to visit yesterday. It's lovely to see her and to be able to touch again is lifting her spirits.

I asked Elizabeth to marry me. She turned round and said, 'You haven’t got on your knees!'

MARGARET SANDELWOOD
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CLIFF MOORES & RICHARD WILLIAMS

RICHARD
The things I’ve missed are the handshakes and the hugs. We’re members of Prime Timers and Country Network and we’ve all been phoning each other to see how people are travelling.

How lucky we are to be Australians. It has made me re-evaluate my view of politicians as they’ve shown they love and protect us regardless of the economy…

CLIFF
I feel for people living on their own, because their fears can multiply if there’s no-one around to talk with. We should be aware that they may have more stress. My biggest worry is that we return to what we were. The planet has healed in so many ways. It has at least made us aware that we can change things so radically.

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JAN PHILLIPS

I think many older people are able to cope better than younger people due to our life experiences. I can cope with isolation so long as I can phone, text, Skype and Zoom with friends and family.

Most often I am just going out to visit my sister in hospital and food shop. I'm starting to miss lunches, brunches and movies. But it's not forever, we just have to be patient and look forward to Big Hugs soon.I'm grateful to be in WA and grateful to have a home and an income.

I worry about people who are not so lucky; stuck in refugee camps and places where they are powerless and have no chance to keep themselves safe. It's so sad. My grandkids are teenagers now. When they’re adults I wonder how they'll remember and interpret this time? Will there be a view of 'pre-pandemic' vs 'post-pandemic' worlds?

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FINCH WHITEHEAD

Now there’s a greater traffic of people, it’s a bit disturbing really. This part is the worst for me – fills me with anxiety having to face the world again.

Viruses mutate, acquiring other properties. It takes me back to the 80’s HIV epidemic. People died of these common diseases.

The other thing that worries me – there’s still no cure for HIV. We may need to live with it [corona virus].

Things won’t be the same. Hopefully, we’ll be left with a more caring society.

There could be a lot of positive things – the logical answer to underemployment is to get people working 4 days a week.

Could go either way – turn more fascist, or… we’re in a variety of socialism at the moment.

Things won’t be the same. Hopefully, we’ll be left with a more caring society.

FINCH WHITEHEAD
Photography by Acorn Photo
298 Hamersley Road Subiaco WA 6008 Australia Ph: +61893881999 http://acorn.com.au orders@acorn.com.au

Interviews by June Lowe of GRAI.