The COVID-19 pandemic that upturned our lives is likely to make lasting change, according to business, education and local government leaders.
The upheaval of the past few months could offer opportunities to shape the future, while the impact of tough stay-at-home restrictions will linger for months to come.
The Standard asked leaders from south-west schools, business and local government about what could be learned so far from a year that looked nothing like what they planned.
LESSONS FROM HOME LEARNING
All students will join the youngest and oldest year levels back in classrooms next Tuesday as campus-based learning returns after months at home.
But the pandemic will likely become a tipping point for how students learn in classrooms in the future, educators say.
As teachers scrambled to turn curricula into remote and online lessons, Warrnambool College principal David Clift said teachers had never experienced "a more intense period of learning in education".
"We have tried to compress years' worth of learning into seven weeks. It would be ludicrous to leave that behind," Mr Clift said.
He said the online program the school taught its remote classes from, Google Classroom, would likely become a tool for most future classroom-based lessons.
"It forces the educator to really think and plan through that learning process for the students before they get to the class," Mr Clift said.
"That's time consuming but a lot of our teachers have made the comment that you're not having to invent the product during the class.
"It doesn't mean using technology and screens for the whole lesson, that would be a waste of face-to-face learning, but it might provide an opportunity to do a quick quiz or provide information, and then some quick feedback."
He said he was also curious about how Victoria's education system would view absenteeism if students could learn remotely.
"There are some students for whom it's their preferred way of learning," Mr Clift said.
"I'll be interested to see if the government will classify a student as present while learning from home.
"Whether there can be some flexibility applied for schools, students and families if they would prefer to learn in an environment outside the classroom."
Port Fairy Consolidated School principal Kath Tanner said the school had learned the value of parents gaining insights into their children's education.
"That is really the greatest benefit of remote learning, parents feeling empowered by knowing what their child's learning and strengths and weaknesses are," Ms Tanner said.
"Our formal reporting and assessment doesn't always show that, it shows achievement and attitude and effort, but doesn't' show their learning style."
But Ms Tanner said it was the sheer scale of the upheaval this semester that gave educators a renewed sense of confidence.
"The greatest thing that will come out of this is agility and flexibility when we come up against hurdle."
OPEN FOR BUSINESS, BUT NOT AS USUAL
Offices, gyms, restaurants, and retail shops have changed the way they trade during the pandemic.
But for some south-west businesses restrictions on face-to-face trade brought successful new sources of revenue, and gave customers and workers flexibility that could remain in the future.
For financial firm Sinclair Wilson about 110 employees have worked from home across all south-west offices and they have met all clients using video conferencing services.
Tax principal James Castley said going forward the business would continue a "preference of meeting face-to-face" but would offer video conferencing after the pandemic to clients who preferred or the situation suited it.
"It's meant we can meet with clients at 7am or 9pm, it's extended the times we can meet. We will use it going forward," he said.
The accounting and advisory company will also look at increased flexibility for staff working from home, Mr Castley said, and cut back on travel for training that could be done virtually.
But he said accountants were working long hours as businesses reacted to the pandemic.
"Clients have needed accountants' input more than ever," Mr Castley said.
"Many are looking at an extension of their offering, whether that's a food delivery service for a cafe, an online service for a retailer or a gym offering a personal trainer service online in addition to the gym.
"It's more of an expansion to their revenue lines. It's inspiring to see how hard our clients are working and how that work will benefit them in the future."
Warrnambool's Dart and Marlin bar and Standard Dave kitchen owner David de Carteret said he would now offer an online wine and subscription service following the pandemic.
"When COVID-19 happened the licensing body extended licences to restaurants to allow them to sell off premise, so we are in the early stages of applying for that full time," Mr de Carteret said.
He said the business' cocktail delivery service had also shown promising signs.
"It's worked really well for us, and it's another revenue stream moving forward," Mr de Carteret said.
"In the past we have had an unpredictable environment, where if you can manage to diversify your income streams you are going to have a more predictable environment to work from."
He said the hospitality industry now had to work on showing that dining-out was a unique experience.
"It's as difficult equation for 20 patrons, so perhaps there will be a change where hospitality can drive that narrative it's a premium service," Mr de Carteret said.
COUNCILS COULD STAY LIVE
South-west councils have been live streaming public meetings since the pandemic hit, something which for some communities has led to more engagement.
Corangamite Shire chief executive Andrew Mason said the council could continue to broadcast meetings.
"We have regularly had 80-odd people watching the meetings, that would suggest it could be something that will continue in the future," he said.
Mr Mason said few coronavirus cases in regional areas highlighted benefits of living outside big cities and might encourage people to move. "(But) housing and service provision need to match with any population increase," he said.
Warrnambool mayor Tony Herbert said the council would likely consider keeping live-stream meetings and closing question time submissions the afternoon before council meetings.
"I would really hope we can continue to take that extra step to make sure the vulnerable in the community are looked after," he said.
Council chief Peter Schneider said the pandemic showed "how quickly our staff were able to adapt" and councils' involvement in essential services.
"The outdoor crews were also able to respond quickly to shut down public spaces," he said.
"That sounds simple in theory but when you've got more than 60 playgrounds, several fishing jetties, a dog park and numerous other public facilities that have to be signposted or cordoned off - it's a massive job."
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