How life is changing for CBD locals

By Meg Hill

In an apartment in the city, a semi-retired couple with careers in health economics behind them have been watching the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis play out.

Jeff and Bronwyn Richardson, aged 69 and 73 respectively, live in an old art nouveau building on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth streets. 

Jeff, the founder of the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University, featured in this CBD News column last November. We interviewed his wife Bronwyn on March 12.

“We moved to Melbourne from Sydney 28 years ago for jobs. My husband is an economist heading up the health program evaluation unit at Monash and I worked for parliament when I first got here,” she said.

“I worked for the economic and budget review committee so we researched the electricity commission, gas, sewerage, those sorts of things.”

Bronwyn lectured in economics and worked in the public sector, parliament, the health department, work cover, health and safety and as a private consultant. 

On March 12, she said she believed Australia was heading for a recession unless major government intervention took place, but also said she didn’t like economics.

“I think it’s become a very useless thing,” she said.

“I’d be telling people all the time that economics is not very useful for society because it looks at the monetary side, the goods and services, it doesn’t look at society and say how do we make this a better place to live.”

Bronwyn said she thought economics “had its place”, but that it was easily twisted.

“With governments in particular, this whole business of wanting a surplus is ridiculous. Whether you’ve got a budget surplus or deficit it really doesn’t matter if your society is going well.”

Having moved into the CBD from Fitzroy a few years ago, Bronwyn said the couple had enjoyed the “cosmopolitan” lifestyle – theatres, the opera, the ballet, shows and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Keeping intellectually occupied has largely been thanks to involvement in the University for the Third Age (U3A).

On March 12, Bronwyn emphasised to CBD News the role that U3A played in her life.

“It’s really terrific. It’s basically people who have something to teach and people like me come along to learn. They might be teachers, or scientists, or singers or whatever, and I want to learn poetry or French,” she said.

“It’s very cheap, I’ve made a lot of friends, and it’s a great opportunity.”

But since March 12 gatherings of any size have progressively wound down – either at government direction or at their own volition. Many community and social groups that exist for Bronwyn’s age group in particular are taking extra caution.

CBD News caught up with Bronwyn on March 18 to ask how she was coping and keeping herself occupied.

“First, I have a stack of classic DVDs as well as iView. I also have a high pile of books which I haven’t got to yet,” she said.

“I’m still going to my very tiny personal training gym, and have night time Facetimes with friends and relatives in Sydney, Adelaide, New Zealand, Townsville, London, the Blue Mountains and even a kibbutz in Israel.” •

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