The NRVS is on hold for the foreseeable future.

As you may have noticed, the NRVS has been on an online hiatus for the last little while, and the website is now archived. We wanted to explain why, and let you know that we have no plans to restart for the foreseeable future. This is my story (Rachel), and the simplest way of saying it, is that I burnt out. I’m an Intensive Care Specialist, working at Lismore Base Hospital ICU. Lismore Base was the Covid referral hospital for the northern rivers, a region that as you know is the epicentre of the anti-science and anti-medicine/anti-vaccination movement. Working in ICU during the worst of Covid was HARD. Too hard.

Coming home from gruelling shifts, physically and emotionally exhausted, carrying vicarious trauma and the grief of families, to hear and read and see the protests and denial? That took a toll on me. Obviously, that’s not specific to this region, the whole world watched as the anti-vaccination cult became mainstream during that time. And I’ve watched through the course of the pandemic, with all the establishment resources joining in the fight against misinformation, the division and lies and hate just getting worse and worse, and then watching as the conspiracies merged and anti-science segued into right wing qanon bigoted rubbish - and I was left sad and angry and empty, and above all feeling that my contribution wasn’t likely to make any difference, and to even try was beyond the time and resources and energy that I had at that time.

Also, deep in the pandemic, we had a difficult personal time. We lost a good friend, and my uncle died (of Covid), and grief, and family were what mattered. And then? At the tail end of the Omicron wave, when my reserves were depleted, our region suffered the worst floods in history. I work in Lismore, at the heart of the catastrophe - there were shifts at work when every single patient and family member (and most of the staff) had either nearly drowned, or rescued someone from nearly drowning, or lost their homes. The trauma was immediate and intense and awful. And that trauma and the effects of it is ongoing.

Personally, our home escaped the worst of it, but nevertheless we sustained damage, and far far too many of our friends and neighbours lost everything. It’s two years now since the floods, and our region is still feeling the impacts of that. A housing crisis that existed before had been compounded a thousand fold- with many houses still uninhabitable, and the urban to country moves that happened during the pandemic escalating prices of those that are left beyond the means of locals. The towns in which I live and work, although recovering, are in parts mere shadows of their former selves, and especially the most vulnerable in our community are hurting, having lost whatever safety net they ever had. And when vulnerable people lose safety nets, they often end up needing medical attention, and so (even though I live with the privilege of a secure income and housing), the vicarious trauma of seeing and caring for those in such circumstances persists.

Personally, we only finished the flood repairs to our home a couple of months ago, which has been a tough journey. I’m still working in ICU, 2 years on from the floods, 4 years on from the start of the pandemic, and the impact of those years for me is that burn out feels always close. So within that context, volunteering my time and emotional energy to continue the thankless fight against the anti-vaccination movement, trying to help people who won’t help themselves, which leads to online and personal abuse, is just not something I can do any more to the same extent. So, having realised that I haven’t been able to keep the website up to date to the standard that I have set myself, I have recognised it is time to stop.

These are sentiments (if not the exact details) shared by Heidi, who has been with the NRVS since its inception, and carried much of the burden of the work with me. Therefore we have archived the website to save the content but not have something published and out of date, and stepped away. We will continue to advocate for science out of the limelight, because that’s who we are and what we do, but our public role in this will no longer continue. I don’t know if we’ll ever get back into it. Maybe as time passes and if life becomes easier? But we’ve given over 10 years to the fight, and now it’s time for other things for us. To those that have been with us and supported us and shared the burdens with us, we thank you. To those that have shared their stories and helped us understand the importance of this advocacy, we thank you. And we wish everyone well for the future.