‘Warriors of Welfare’: How Victoria’s vaccination mandate sparked divisions in progressive Brunswick | Health

Au beginning of Sydney Road in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick is a popular yoga studio. His promise is humble: “To provide opportunities for the community to positively change their life experience. “

On its Facebook page, between the Krishna posts and the breathing work, the studio offers those who have lost their jobs due to the vaccination mandate a chance to participate in a free yoga class valued at $ 2,700.

“We are happy to show you that there will always be great gifts for those who stand up for what you believe in and choose to follow the path of integrity,” the post read.

Studio founder Aimee herself publicly releases personal page on the Victoria Pandemic Bill, mainstream media and the mandate.

His cover photo on this page shows two people holding guns, wearing T-shirts that say, “F ** k That Vaccine.” Neither the studio nor Aimee responded to Guardian interview requests. A message received by the studio’s Guardian, allegedly from Aimee, said “we are not anti-vax”.

A short walk from Sydney Road, which runs through the bowels of the alternative suburb, Harry has just opened the Green Phoenix cafe.

Since the lockdown was lifted, he has struggled with foot traffic and believes it is because of a combination of higher cases and the warrant.

“The double vax warrant just kept people out,” he said. “Especially here in Brunswick. There are a lot of anti-vaccines. They’re very health conscious, you know, vegans.

“We have regulars who couldn’t come because of that.

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According to state data, Brunswick – along with a number of neighboring affluent suburbs such as Carlton and Fitzroy – lags behind the immunization average.

Brunswick did not reach the 70% mark of the second dose until November 4 and is currently between 75% and 80%. The state average is now over 90%.

But the explanations for why Brunswick’s rate is lower are varied. The dominant theory is that, like the city of Melbourne, Brunswick’s demographics are skewed because they were compiled before the pandemic and many expats and international students have since left.

Others include lower adoption due to the younger population or a higher migrant population that has struggled to access the vaccine.

Some suggest it’s the alternative health crowd.

Brunswick – along with a number of neighboring suburbs – lags behind the vaccination average, according to state data. Photograph: Sewon Park / Getty Images / EyeEm

Dr Jessica Kaufman, a researcher in the Vaccine Uptake Group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, says without the data it’s impossible to tell, but the top three drivers of reluctance are distrust, individualism and self-esteem. of purity.

“When you think of these three main pillars, the wellness industry touches them all,” says Kaufman.

Although she points out that many affluent inner city communities are embracing alternative medicine, she says Brunswick has historically lower childhood immunization rates.

“It is possible that there is a concentration of [these] views, ”she said.

Kaufman says there’s an industry complex around the anti-vaxx welfare movement that sees companies profit from selling wealthy people on the idea that “if you eat enough kale, you’ll be healthy. “.

“Much of the small number of people who have not yet been vaccinated are resisting the warrant and they will become louder as they are pushed into the area; businesses will hear about it because they have to ask, ”she says.

Some locals back the idea, saying they are dealing with more anti-vaccines.

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Tim Cohen runs a wine bar in Brunswick East which has organic supermarkets, craft beer bars and trendy restaurants.

He has just reopened his bar and says he and his staff have “pulled off the abuse” of the anti-vaccines that expect to be served.

“Last Friday, a young woman entered… She became quite aggressive… She demanded to play the role of the victim, she wanted to be oppressed.

Cohen describes the “Welfare Warrior” subculture in the region as privileged, young and morally righteous.

“It’s a politically motivated suburb,” he says. “It’s… very opinionated. “

And it’s not just adults.

Pedro sends his daughter to a primary school in Coburg, just north of Brunswick. He says she comes home and tells her that many of her friends come from “anti-vaccine families”, and that they told her that the Covid vaccines will cause heart disease.

“They also told my daughter that getting the vaccine would prevent her from having children,” he says.

Cyclists are everywhere in Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
Many residents of Brunswick are quick to point out that people with anti-vax views are in the minority. Photography: Luke Henriques-Gomes / The Guardian

It is impossible to say how many people have strong anti-vax beliefs, or why. The data simply does not exist.

And many Brunswick residents are quick to point out that these people are in the minority.

Associate Professor Katie Attwell, an immunization social scientist and policy expert at the University of Western Australia, says these groups are moving to live in suburbs which they believe reflect some of their values.

They may see themselves as progressive, care about the environment, eat organic, and have overlapping hobbies and beliefs with wellness communities, she says.

“These are people who are pro-environment, pro-science when it works for them… These are people who may have voted for left-wing parties, who see themselves as progressives in many aspects of their lives” , says Attwell.

But the increasingly divisive conversations around these issues and the state’s vaccine mandate have pushed many to the right of the political spectrum, she says.

“It brings out their anti-authoritarian streak.”

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