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Southbanker

06 May 2020

Southbanker Image

Putting in to get something back

By David Schout

For many Melburnians, work has come to a grinding halt during the coronavirus pandemic but for a small portion of the population, it has only ramped up.

Southbank resident and RMIT University’s Marcus de Rijk is firmly in the latter category.

Working to help students navigate a different and challenging learning environment, Marcus has been kept busy while working from home in the Yarra Condos apartment he shares with his wife.

The enormity of the job started to surface back in February, when students from China could not return to Australia for the start of the university year, and his team were tasked with helping the move to online learning.

Soon after as tertiary institutions closed altogether, that job became even bigger.

While some classes could move relatively seamlessly online, others - like those that must take place in the lab - could not.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he told Southbank News.

“You feel a pressure to try and help people but you’re keenly aware you can’t help everyone.”

Marcus, a Southbank Residents Association (SRA) committee member, said he was dealing okay with working from home, ensuring he remained strict on setting boundaries on work and leisure in the apartment.

In periods of downtime, he’s a keen drummer and is president of the Rats of Tobruk Memorial Pipes and Drums band.

On recent ANZAC Day commemorations, he live-streamed a rendition of Amazing Grace on his balcony to members of the SRA Facebook page, an experience he described as “emotionally moving”.

Unable to march towards the Shrine of Remembrance on April 25 as usual, other members of the band completed their own renditions at home.

Marcus’ passion for drumming was handed down from his father while living in his Netherlands.

As a young boy during Queen’s Day celebrations (a national holiday in the Netherlands), his Dad played the snare in a national brass band, and Marcus was hooked.

“He came around the corner with his band and, to me as a young kid, it was so impressive. The sound of the pipes and the drummers coming from behind just fascinated me.”

In 1982, at the age of 13, he migrated to Australia like many other “Dutchies” in the preceding decades.

In the ‘90s he responded to an advertisement looking for members of the band, and shortly after became a drummer.

While his experience with music is as a hobby, his wife’s is professional and as such, Southbank remains their ideal location.

“It’s great,” he said of postcode 3006, where he moved to in 2016.

“It always has been great. In particular for my wife being a full-time musician, some of her gigs are at Melbourne Recital Centre, so it’s very convenient. Leading the life that we do, being closely connected to music, it’s fantastic.”

Shortly after moving in permanently to the apartment (owned by his wife’s family), Marcus joined the SRA.

“One of the experiences that we’ve had previously is a sense of loss around community. And sometimes, if you want to get something out of it, a great way to do that is to put in.”

And while he spoke highly of his community, he acknowledged it wasn’t without distinct challenges.

“I think the ever-expanding population is going to place more pressure on parking and traffic,” he said. “They’re just some of the issues that places pressure on the amenity for residents. For residents to feel a sense of wellbeing and a sense of connection to community here, those are just two areas that place pressure on everyone’s ability to feel connected, and a place they can be seen - not just living in a little box.”

He said this sense of place, and community, was being challenged right now.

But instances like the spontaneous balcony party in Southbank at Easter showed there’s a community of people eager to connect and look after each other.

“I think with the coronavirus crisis, the sense of isolation has been obviously exacerbated and a question of how you deal with that as a community … it was really nice to hear the music and an obvious sense that people were enjoying that. This idea of coming together and being able to be part of a community; as odd and as unusual as it was, it was actually really nice.” •

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