32 Things That Happened Pre And Early Pandemic That Will Give Aussies An Existential Crisis

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Remember when ScoMo ducked off to Hawaii during the Black Summer bushfires?

Our American colleagues compiled a list where they revisited the weeks and months before the pandemic — aka when things last felt “normal” — which was two years ago, if you can comprehend that.

Inspired by that, we thought we would take a look at what was happening in Australia two years ago, both in the lead up to the pandemic and in the early days of COVID-19 when masks, social distancing and PCR tests were still a new thing.


In September 2019, Aussie icon Flume made international headlines after a video of him — wait for it — eating his girlfriend’s ass at Burning Man went viral.


In October 2019, climbing Uluru — which has significant spiritual significance to the Anangu peoples — was banned by the authority of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board, who had voted to close the site in 2017.

Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

Indigenous Senator Malarndirri McCarthy described it as a “momentous” moment in Australian history.


The biggest news story that dominated Australian headlines between November 2019–January 2020 was the Black Summer bushfires. In total, 24 million hectares of land was burnt, 3000 homes were destroyed, 28 people died and three billion animals were either killed or displaced.

Brett Hemmings / Getty Images

Just a reminder that the fires are still so bad in NSW, this is what Sydney Harbour looks like right now. There is smoke everywhere and it just smells like fire.

It is spring. None of this is okay.

09:32 PM – 20 Nov 2019

Twitter: @LoneVaultWander


Back to December 2019, 11 Australian citizens or residents were among the 19 people who died as a result of New Zealand’s deadly Whakaari/White Island volcano eruption.

Marty Melville / AFP via Getty Images

In total, 22 people died from the eruption, with many more being injured.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also criticised for going on a holiday to Hawaii with his family in December, while the rest of Australia grappled with severe bushfires that forced thousands to evacuate.

Cole Bennetts / Getty Images


Moving again to January 2020, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Joaquin Phoenix dedicated moments in the Golden Globes spotlight to highlight the bushfires ravaging Australia, as well as blame climate change.

Russell Crowe got Jennifer Aniston to read out a climate change message about the bushfires at the Golden Globes, and honestly, what a lord

01:42 AM – 06 Jan 2020

Twitter: @JoshButler

While Russell Crowe wasn’t present at the ceremony, Jennifer Aniston accepted the Best Actor award on his behalf and read his acceptance speech out loud.

“Russell Crowe could not be here with us tonight because he is at home in Australia protecting his family from the devastating bushfires. Make no mistake, the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based. We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way, we have a future. Thank you.”


Australian comedian Celeste Barber launched a Facebook fundraiser to benefit the NSW Rural Fire Service after her family was affected by bushfires in Eden, NSW.

Facebook: donate

The original target was $30,000, but the fundraiser ended up raising $51.3 million in donations.


In the same month, ScoMo was blasted by locals during a visit to Cobargo, a bushfire-ravaged town in New South Wales. Some even refused to shake his hand and highlighted their frustration at the PM’s response to the bushfires.

“You won’t be getting any votes around here, buddy. You’re an idiot.”

Residents in Cobargo, New South Wales confront Australian PM Scott Morrison about the government’s response to the wildfires.

Mr Morrison said he was “not surprised people are feeling very raw”.

12:48 PM – 02 Jan 2020

Twitter: @Channel4News


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their decision to “step back as ‘senior’ members” of the British royal family, split their time between the UK and USA and became financially independent.

Chris Jackson / Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The move was later branded as “Megxit” by the media.


Plus, the Australian Open started, resulting in Novak Djokovic winning the Men’s Singles and Sofia Kenin the Women’s Singles.

Hannah Peters / Getty Images

A very different reception to how Novak was received by Australians this year.


We’re not done with January just yet, though. On the 20th, massive dust storms blanketed entire towns in central New South Wales that transformed daytime into nighttime.

Huge #duststorm rolling into #Dubbo #NSW yesterday like a dust tsunami!

The #drought in #Australia is intense, with the frequency of particulate storms on the rise + more to come with summer in full swing.

Followed by 2mm(!) of rain 🌧

📷 credit my good HS mate, A. Hildebrandt

08:48 PM – 19 Jan 2020

Twitter: @DrWilso


Less than 24 hours later, a hail storm swept through Canberra and parts of New South Wales, which caused significant damage to cars, homes and caused localised flooding.

15 days apart. By my clock, we’re due for a plague of locusts by Australia Day… #AusPol #sydneystorm #canberrahail #AustralianBushfires #AustralianFires

09:00 AM – 20 Jan 2020

Twitter: @Cranky_Psych

Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images


Just two days later, the entire world was sent into mourning when it was confirmed that NBA player Kobe Bryant, as well as his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, had died in a helicopter crash.

Gabriel Bouys / AFP via Getty Images


The rain also extinguished more than 30 fires, including one that had been burning for almost three months, and pushed up Warragamba Dam’s levels from 44 to 80%.

Incredible weather across Sydney. Upside down waterfalls at #Kurnell. #sydney #SydneyStorm #sydneyweather #weather

11:11 PM – 08 Feb 2020

Twitter: @AnthonyClarkAU


Because, just in case bushfires, floods and hailstorms weren’t enough, Australia was also experiencing record-breaking drought, with some regions having little rain for the past three years.

David Gray / Getty Images


In mid-February, Australia’s minds were still on the Black Summer bushfires, with a fundraising concert in Sydney called Fire Fight Australia raising $11.1 million for the national bushfire relief.

Cole Bennetts / Getty Images

The 10-hour concert was broadcast on television, with music acts like Jessica Mauboy, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Queen + Adam Lambert performing.


But the 2020 Oscars were a nice distraction, with audience favourite Parasite taking home four awards, including Best Picture, and director Bong Joon-ho just being ~the moment~ the entire night.

Amy Sussman / Getty Images


In March 2020, Australians responded to news of COVID-19 being labelled a world pandemic by panic-buying basic groceries.

Today I went into my local Coles, I couldn’t believe the stockpiling happening. No long-life milk, toilet paper, rice, pasta & hardly any medicines, minimal lentils & canned tomatoes. You get the feeling people felt quite anxious after seeing these empty shelves. #coronavirus

01:37 AM – 02 Mar 2020

Twitter: @chrisledlin


During this month, people also called on ScoMo to #LockdownAustralia, like Italy and Spain, to slow down the rapid ride of COVID-19 case numbers.


Wrapping up March 2020 was cruise ship Ruby Princess, which disembarked passengers in Sydney despite several of them, as well as some crew, showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

James D. Morgan / Getty Images

This led to at least 12 deaths and more than 700 cases of coronavirus in Australia being linked to this incident and a huge bungle by NSW Health.


During April 2020, Australia was in a nationwide lockdown, which led to a resurgence in binge-worthy and wholesome content. Leading the pack was MasterChef Australia: Back To Win, which featured a fresh judging panel and fan-favourite contestants from past seasons.


We were also very much obsessed with the Netflix doco Tiger King and its larger-than-life plotlines.


Food trends also started to take off, including dalgona coffee, banana bread, sourdough (or really, bread in general) and a whole variety of recipes.


And lastly, Australians, as well as the rest of the world, started taking mask-wearing and social distancing a lot more seriously as well as learning the significance of PPE and PCR tests.

Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

Compared to then, we’ve come a long way — but some things remain the same (attitudes towards Scott Morrison), while others have changed drastically (the fight against COVID-19, including vaccines, boosters, as well as the anti-vaxx movement).

What things or news headlines do you remember happening just before the pandemic or in the early days of it?

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