She'll be right, mate

At the centre of Australia's fight against COVID-19 has been a spirit of mateship that can also be seen in the insurance sector, writes Stefan Feldmann

She'll be right, mate



In the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia and New Zealand can both be considered the lucky countries. We counted signifi cantly fewer COVID-19 infections and deaths than other nations. A recent analysis by the Lowy Institute in Sydney confi rmed that our region is among the most successful in containing the virus. Whilst New Zealand tops the list globally, Australia also made it into the top 10, next to Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Rwanda and Iceland.

As island nations, New Zealand and Australia were able to close borders to inter-national travellers early on and establish a quarantine system for returnees. New Zealand managed to eradicate the disease in the community, thanks to a tough seven-week-long lockdown. Australia also locked the country down, noticeably with fewer and less severe restrictions.

In the end, both countries achieved elim-ination, although our good fortune here was interrupted by Melbourne’s major COVID-19 outbreak, hampering Australia’s recovery. Since then, single cases or clusters in the community that slipped through quaran-tine have been contained via a strong contact tracing system and snap lockdowns.

Looking at the enviable life we lead again – visiting food venues, art exhibitions, the theatre and even sports events – I started to question why Europe, and particularly my home country of Germany, have not achieved the same. At the same time, I noticed that the German press were looking to Australia and New  Zealand  as  examples.  The  “zero-COVID  strategy”,  as  they  dubbed  it,  became  a  desir-able option, and scientists, commentators and parts of the public demanded a strengthening of  lockdown  restrictions,  which  reduced  daily  infections  but  has  not  yet  made  a  signifi  cant  impact on death numbers, which still range in the hundreds in Germany every day.

“I have witnessed countless acts where people sprang into action to help neighbours, looked after the elderly, took in and provided support to stranded backpackers, and supported struggling local businesses” - Stefan Feldmann

By  studying  experts’  opinions,  I’ve  learnt  that  we  are  indeed  lucky.  Catherine  Bennett,  an  epidemiologist  at  Deakin  University  in  Geelong,  explained  in  an  interview  in  The  Age  that  autumn  and  winter  in  Europe  created  more favourable conditions for COVID-19, and a  lack  of  sunlight  also  meant  the  virus  could  survive longer on surfaces. William Rawlinson, a  virologist  from  the  University  of  NSW  in  Sydney,  told  the  German  paper  Die  Welt  that  the  “large  number  of  border  crossings”  in  Europe made the Australian and New Zealand strategy  (closed  border  plus  quarantine)  basi-cally impossible there.

Rawlinson  also  commented  on  the  “very  long  history”  of  “open  and  transparent  societies”,  explaining  that  this  made  a  strict  lock-down  and  quarantine  much  harder  to  accept  in  Europe.  The  introduction  of  QR  codes,  for  example,  is  unthinkable  for  many  Europeans,  who  have  experienced  suppressive  regimes  before.  “If  this  was  implemented  here  in  Europe, it would remind me of the communism that  I  grew  up  in  when  I  lived  in  Hungary,”  an  old  friend  told  me  when  I  counted  out  the  measures that work for our region.

However,  in  my  opinion,  there’s  another  aspect that sets us apart, and it’s the one I am most  proud  of:  Australian  mateship.  In  the  past  months,  I  have  witnessed  countless  acts  where people sprang into action to help neigh-bours,  looked  after  the  elderly,  took  in  and  provided  support  to  stranded  backpackers,  and supported struggling local businesses.

Although  experiencing  certain  hurdles  ourselves  due  to  the  disruption  of  the  global  supply chain, the HDI Global SE team has so far  coped  extremely  well,  and  I  attribute  this  to  our  embracing  of  the  true  spirit  of  mate-ship. 

By  distributing  UberEats  vouchers, booking cooking sessions and cocktail-making classes,  and  hiring  magicians  and  musicians  for  virtual  shows,  we  not  only  supported  the  community  and  hard-hit  industries,  but  also  helped  raise  our  own  spirits  and  those  of  our  sta , broker partners and clients.

As  a  result,  I  can  truly  say  that  I  have  never  felt  more  engaged  in  this  community.  The popular saying “She’ll be right, mate” has really hit home.


Stefan Feldmann is the managing director and regional head for ASEAN and Australasia at industrial insurer HDI Global SE. He joined the company in 2010 and has considerably expanded its business engagement in the region.and regional head for ASEAN and Australasia at industrial insurer HDI Global SE. He joined the company in 2010 and has considerably expanded its business engagement in the region.

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