Our present sorrow and hardship will pass

Fire burns at Thomas Foods International. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
Fire burns at Thomas Foods International. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

It has been a big week.

In this newspaper’s office, whenever we draw up plans for covering disasters, the idea of the meat works burning down has always been our standard worst-case scenario.

Unbelievably, here we are.

On the one hand, it's daunting to know that more than 1000 people in this town are now looking for work.

The unemployment rate was already around nine per cent, which means more than 700 people were already in that basket.

Handing out resumes, taking knockback after knockback even when they're gentle, is demoralising.

I know it, because I have been there.

It takes a lot of resilience.

But on the other hand, you're not in this alone.

The whole town is living this experience, and a blow to one of us is a blow to us all.

Your workmates, whether they grew up on Swanport Road or came from China last month, all know what you're dealing with, because they are doing the same.

The impact of last Wednesday will be felt in every takeaway shop, every supermarket, every real estate agency, every schoolyard, every old folks' home; but that means we're all in this together.

We await with interest Thomas Foods International's plan to redeploy and otherwise hang onto its permanent workers.

We know the company and the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union are working closely together and making all the right noises, which is good; we must hope they will be able to make the numbers add up.

We thank the government departments and agencies, charities, businesses and individuals who have pledged to support TFI's workers – the outpouring of community spirit has been remarkable.

What the next week, the next 12 months, will hold, nobody knows yet.

Maybe you will move to Naracoorte, or New South Wales.

If you have never left Murray Bridge, there are plenty of nice places out there.

It's hard to uproot your life, your family, but it can be done if that's what you feel you need to do – I've done it and you can too.

If you'd rather stay here and wait, the support networks you've already got will serve you well – use them.

And someday, when the wreckage is gone, we'll all be together once more.

This hard time will pass.

Peri Strathearn


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