I really had a lot of optimism for the way 2021 started after such a terrible 2020. Well that was quickly dashed, as COVID wasn’t going anywhere. That being said, we did have some amazing highs as the Olympic swim team as an example and so here is my quick summary of some of the major stories here and overseas for 2021:

The start of 2021 – 2021 started better than 2020 in that at least we didn’t have the terrible bushfires and floods as the biggest news in January locally it seemed was that “Advance Australia Fair” had changed one word, albeit significant, from “young and free” to “one and free”. I don’t think anyone had an issue with that. Actually I would like it to go one step further as the New Zealand anthem has a verse in Māori and so why couldn’t we do that here? I know there are thousands of dialects so hard to choose one but surely we could agree having a verse in the aboriginal language would be a great idea. Globally, the year started of with the storming of Congress in the USA. The scenes were appalling and quite surreal as just couldn’t believe this sort of act could happen, not in a democracy anyway.

The Mouse plague – yes 2020 had fire and flood, now we had pestilence, it really was becoming very biblical. Living in the city it was hard to comprehend but seeing the images on TV was quite unbelievable.  

The States know better – while the Federal Govt always thought they ran the country, Covid really showed where the power was, and it was with the States. Qld and WA basically locked down their borders and threw away the key. We saw the orange borders at Coolangatta and my distinct memory was seeing a Fathers’ Day with people handing over presents and giving each other hugs across large orange barricades. Sad to see Gladys go as she definitely helped us NSWs people get through the crisis here and felt she could have been treated better.  

Prince Philip passing – while for many millennials he seemed a dotty old man, growing up with him as I did and my generation, he was always someone to be admired and respected (and backed up as was one of the most read stories of the year). Seeing the image of the Queen sitting by herself at the church during Covid made it even more poignant.

State of Origin/Grand Finals – when it came down to holding massive sporting competitions, the state borders seem to disappear very quickly. Not sure how it was ever justified when people wanting to visit sick relatives couldn’t be allowed in but if you could pass a football or be related to one, then no problem.

Delta hits – by May/June, we realised Covid was going nowhere, and the message was clear, it was up to us all to get vaccinated. While some states were quicker than others, once Australians got on board, wow, we were vaccinated quickly and now over 90%, and while Covid and now Omicron is a new variant, most are feeling a lot more comfortable knowing our hospitals won’t be over-run now.

China tensions and French snub – it seemed subtle but we seem to have become a lot closer to the US and Britain this last year and that has seen tensions rise with China and the French, especially with backflip on their submarines. The world political debate is bigger than this simple article but from someone with a strong Chinese background, it’s sad thinking I can’t visit China or even Hong Kong in this present climate. As our culture has an increasing Chinese influence and know it is the favoured holiday and study destination, and yet can’t see this tension going away any time soon. Too hard to mention them all but other major global political happenings included the fall of Afghanistan and Myanmar coup.  

Ash Barty winning and the Olympics – some good news amongst the gloom and even seeing the crowds at Wimbledon was great. I remember seeing Evonne Goolagong (Cawley) winning 50 years ago and so seemed perfect timing Ash following in her footsteps (also made me feel old too!). For the Olympics, if you were like me, this wasn’t something I was looking forward to as in previous Olympics which I have always seen as the pinnacle of sport. Without crowds, it just didn’t seem the same. I quickly though changed my mind with the successful Australian swim team making it compulsory watching. Brisbane was also awarded the games which was a great bonus.

Property prices soared – off the back of 2020 when sea changes and tree changes became the rage and people brought forward their downsizer plans, this continued through to 2021. If you could work from home, why not have that home in the country and really make a change. Record numbers saw people sell their home and move to the country or interstate especially from Sydney and Melbourne. By end of 2021, prices have slowed but the benefits of country living has never looked better.

October the highs and lows – Finally Sydney and Melbourne came out of lockdown, I think hairdressers and beauticians were the most sort after. It seemed strange now to go a restaurant and be surrounded by people again. You do feel for those who struggled with mental health issues in lockdown and now out of lockdown as while I felt fine, I still felt anxious and whether to wear a mask or not. Bert Newton passed away in October and for many of us, we just grew up with him making us laugh and was a sad moment for Australia.

COP26 – the United Nations Climate Change conference was held in November and saw world leaders come together to discuss their countries’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and target net zero emissions. Australia does not seem to have a clear strategy especially on coal, and we must do more with renewable energies. Superfunds and investment funds are turning more to the benefits of ethical investing and so watch this space.

“My name is Cleo” – the year started coming to a close with this incredible story with many fearing the worst when young Cleo disappeared from a camping site in WA. It was a great feel good story as she was found alive and well and said those magic words which will long stick in our memories.

Overall – the sharemarket and economy – a strong first half for the share market turned into a very flat second half of the year. Interest rates were on the rise especially off the back of USA inflation hitting 6%. Inflation seems to be more a 2023 issue but still many were locking in home interest rates by end of this year. With Delta, the hospitality and retail markets were hit again although with restrictions easing, hopefully the economy will bounce back especially first half of 2022. Visa holders were hard hit with many going home with no expectation of returning. Anyone who owns a bar or restaurant (or Uber) knows how difficult it is in getting staff at the moment, hopefully this also eases in first half of 2022.

Overall for Travel – while overseas travel was not on the cards (again!), even interstate travel was not allowed for many in Vic and NSW. What it did mean was a boom for local travel as NSW and VIC country has never seen such record numbers. Many parts of NSW such as Mudgee, Dubbo and seaside towns, where a Qld, Fiji or overseas destination would have been the go, were now seeing the benefits of a farm stay or some local wineries. Long may it continue after the tough last few years many of our country cousins experienced.

So in summary while most thinking back on 2021 was another Covid year, there really was plenty of major happenings in 2021 – good and bad. Fingers crossed we can now all take stock, get a chance to relax and re-charge our batteries for what will hopefully be a much better 2022!


Article by Marc Bineham – Money coach, speaker and award-winning author of The Money Sandwich