Each night at 8pm, this Shepparton street claps for our healthcare workers

By Charmayne Allison

At 8 pm Wednesday on Shepparton's Northcote Ave, something truly extraordinary happened.

One by one, doors cracked open and young and old spilled onto their front lawns.

And began to clap and cheer.

Car horns beeped, someone banged a saucepan, mobile phone torches swarmed the night air and somewhere down the street, We Will Rock You by Queen blasted from a stereo.

For those few minutes, from one end of the street to the other, joyful chaos reigned.

And that band of neighbours who had felt divided, even isolated, by the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis, suddenly experienced unity.

Because they were all cheering for the same often unsung heroes — our healthcare workers.

Who, day after day, risk their lives to keep us safe.

“I came back inside and I just felt good. I felt unity,” resident Sandi Farrell said.

“We live next to each other but we never talk anymore.

“But this was something we could all stand for together, even from a distance.”

This was just the first night of many for Northcote Ave.

The residents will continue the ritual every night as long as this virus endures, and urge the rest of Greater Shepparton to get involved.

Peter and Kath Eade, Barbara Schier, Robyn Brown, Bruce Wehner and Maeve Wehner, 12.

Ms Farrell had the idea after she saw a video from France.

“A lady was talking about how excited the kids were every day; they'd count down until 8 pm,” she said.

“Then they'd all come out and clap, play musical instruments and beep horns to thank their healthcare workers.”

The idea took hold and, after chatting to a local friend whose daughter is a nurse on the frontlines, Ms Farrell decided to take action.

“She told me her daughter was scared of bringing the virus home to her kids,” she said.

“The thought of carrying that anxiety every day was just unbelievable to me.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Ms Farrell rang 774 ABC Melbourne to speak to host Rafael Epstein.

He was asking for positive stories from the community — how people were coping, pulling together and staying positive.

“I thought, ‘As if I'll get through'. But then I did, and chatted to Raff about my idea to do something similar to France, right here in Shepparton,” Ms Farrell said.

“Sadly, nobody but Melbournites seemed to hear me. My husband didn't, and none of my friends did.”

Not to be deterred, she started calling her neighbours one by one.

“One of my elderly neighbours, in her 80s, said yes straight away,” Ms Farrell said.

“I didn't have the number for my next-door neighbours, so I just shouted over the fence.

“They were all eager to be involved.”

The cheering only lasted a few minutes, but after 8 pm came and went and they all returned indoors, everyone felt that little bit closer.

“One woman said she felt lucky to live in our street,” Ms Farrell said.

“We've all been checking in on each other and taking each other groceries, especially our elderly neighbours.

“This made us feel even more united.”

Ms Farrell is now encouraging other neighbourhoods across the district to participate every night at 8 pm.

“Please, get involved,” she said.

“Our health workers must be feeling so scared and vulnerable going into a workplace where social distancing often can't exist.

“Let's do our part to cheer them on and let them know we're thankful for all they're doing to keep us safe.”