Victoria has hit that magnificent milestone: Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday that 90 per cent of the population, aged 12 and above, is now fully vaccinated.
If you look at the state government's online interactive map of COVID-19 vaccine rates for second dose by postcode, it's a sea of dark green, with regions across the state heading for 95 per cent plus, from Mildura to Mallacoota, Warrnambool to Wangaratta.
Marking the milestone, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged that Victorians have done it tougher than anyone else in Australia over the past two years.
We all feel it.
Data on how we are doing is always lagging the pace of this pandemic, but it gives us the signposts.
For example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been surveying households for COVID impacts since April 2020.
Its last survey, in June 2021 - yes before Victoria went into its sixth and hopefully final lockdown - found that 27 per cent of people in Victoria, more than one in four of us, had experienced "high or very high levels of psychological distress" compared to 18 per cent across the rest of Australia.
And more than one in three of us, or 34 per cent, were more likely than the rest of Australia (23 per cent) to feel it would take more than a year for life to return to normal.
We may feel differently now, as regions, economies and borders open up and we head towards the festive season and summer holidays, learning to live with COVID.
We may feel differently now, as regions, economies and borders open up.
But there is no doubt that the pandemic has hit hard and has a long shadow.
There is also no doubt that some groups have been hit harder than others.
They include children and young people, frontline workers, people with an eating disorder, refugees and migrants, communities with acute, complex and intersectional needs, carers, families and supporters, and many regional areas, particularly on the borders, which were already lacking supports.
Ahead of next year's state Budget, we are urging the government to not only fund systematic long-term reform emerging from the Royal Commission, but these urgent additional needs arising from COVID.
Looking always to build better supports in regional Victoria, we are urging an enhanced role for local government in supporting mental health.
And we're mindful that we are heading towards both federal and state elections next year, so we are putting all major parties on notice.
Our message is:
But we also head towards the end of this tumultuous year with hope, including from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Australia's welfare 2021 report, released last month.
Amid many worrying impacts of COVID, it found there had been an increase at various points and overall through the pandemic in social cohesion - that is, people's perception of "whether most people can be trusted, are fair and most of the time try to be helpful".
That tells us that one of the effects of the pandemic is that, while we have had to be physically distanced, we have been reminded about the importance of relationships and that we are 'all in this together'.
This is important news, and it will help us to manage the ongoing impacts on mental health of this pandemic, and of course of the division and protests that are dominating our headlines right now.
Next week we are hosting a free webinar on 'Learning from adversity', looking at the lessons from adverse events like the bushfires and COVID to ensure we can support people where and when they are most in need.
Because we know that more crises will come. And we know what helps us to head them off or to manage and recover.
That includes connections with families, friends and communities and time off.
So, in our final column for 2021, we wish all readers a safe and happy festive season as we head into a new and different year.
Please join us if you can at the webinar on Tuesday: https://www.mhvconferences.com/
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