Final Update from the Bellingen Covid-19 Clinic: Dr Trevor Cheney

Dr Trevor Cheney gives his weekly report from the Bellingen Shire Covid-19 Clinic

Dear Bellinger Shire  – end of October 2021.


Today’s message is brought to you by the word GROWTH.

Firstly: to relieve the tension and not overuse the investment newsletter type tease.  Yes there are cases of Covid 19 in the region now – in Coffs Harbour, more in Kempsey, and a significant number of local citizens have been exposed, from a variety of sources.  You know what to do – we have been all talking of not much else over the last 2 years. Hospital precautions have geared up again and our medical practices will be a bit tighter on avoiding contamination.

What’s different is that the Bellingen shire postcodes now record more than 90% eligible people vaccinated with a first dose and the second dose following fast.  Canberra curiously has nearly 99%.  This is why the numbers of cases in NSW is shrinking and less people are in hospital, even while the virus is claiming more geography.

As well as many new vaccine technologies still being developed, it looks like there are now at least 4 treatments showing good signs of becoming available to render Covid 19 less deadly. Not clear when they would be available in the regions – ?? Early next year?? They will still all need to go through the regulatory safety processes. In the meantime our vaccination status is our main protection.

This is great. Still not perfect, as kids under 12 are not considered in the numbers and are now back at school.  And the nature of the disease we are dealing with will change in ways unpredicted, while ever the numbers of transmission and infection in poor countries grow.  As a scientific body of massed minds we will deal with it as the knowledge around this virus and our options to treat infection grow.  But too much of the population is fatigued, our kids need to get on with their personal growth in schools and education, and the economy wants to return to growth.   We have mostly missed a bullet, or more appropriately an intercontinental missile.

We can expect that the daily numbers of infection will soon not be considered newsworthy, as has happened in Britain. Queensland will be more than one hour behind on this issue.  Early 2022 will not be a great time to need to be in a Qld hospital.  The current governments will be desperate to talk on other things. So for Australia, NSW, and the Bellinger Shire the pandemic is shifting gears.

And so do we need to in the medical community. As mentioned last week, if you missed it, the pathology company Sullivan & Nicolaides have taken over the testing clinic at Watson Street in Bellingen – offering that in the middle of the day (12.30-1.30pm).   We are very grateful to them for relieving us of that responsibility.  The wonderful Drs and nurses and administrators who have stuck it though the last 19 months in PPE to get to this stage now need to prepare themselves for the new phase.

So, at the end of one process, it is paradoxically perfect to start a philosophical ramble on Growth.

Of course it is a concept that we all know precisely what it means.  Except that it actually has many different meanings depending on your discipline, or ambitions.

Growth is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as firstly relating to an increase in size.  But the second definition is the increase in importance of something, then of course they reference to a lump, -being a cancer or sign of disease.

In biology the concept of growth is cyclical and “steady state”. A steady state is when the amount of input equals the amount of output so while the process is actively dynamic the whole system is stable.  Bacteria grow in your gut – that is mostly a good thing when it is paradoxically growing yet staying stable.  We, or at least a lot of hardworking folk around us, grow the food we depend on – but the plants and animals we eat grow, then stop.  They can’t grow perpetually.  The biggest trees get to a sate of dynamic equilibrium.  In non life chemistry, you can grow crystals into grand forms but eventually they cannot support their own weight and collapse.  In life it is the same – things grow and stand, then crumble so that the next generation can grow in its own right.

In fact the only thing that does continually grow is a cancer.  We have cell lines of cancer growing in labs, which have been used for experiments for 80 years- and the poor lady from whom was taken the first of that sample did not know it was taken, give permission for its use, nor live to see her cervical cancer cell become the foundation of a mass of research across 2 centuries, leading to stem cell research and the as yet unfulfilled promise of cures for so many diseases.

However the main use of “growth” we hear seems to be obsessed with the economic version – an ever expanding mass of money movement, and perpetually increasing population numbers, rebounding Economic growth.

I’m not sure how well I sit with that very narrow interpretation.  I am biologically trained, not economically but see the natural limit lessons in almost all physical worlds.  Growth either cycles graciously for a new generation or over extends, till the supporting structure collapses.

There is an exception. I would prefer to think of growth in terms of progress, value, quality. Personal growth is in self understanding, in knowledge, in tolerance, in acceptance, in learning, in wisdom.  When you sit and contemplate those concepts of growing– they cost the environment nothing. Moreover they potentially offer the healing solutions that can repair the finite world we need to live in.  We don’t really need more cars on the road – we need better, more efficient, less wasteful transport.

We don’t need more people encroaching natural habitats and horseshoe bats. Population growth is a Ponzi scheme.   But we have loads of people whose quality of life could grow and progress.

We as a family, town, shire, state, culture, world have gone through a major event thrown up by Nature. You might say this is the kind of response She has when fed so much rubbish.  If Covid 19 is one of her first big vomits we need to start looking past the carrots and bread (see posts last year) before the retching gets intractable.

But She, and so many of We, have been voicing an appetite for something different, a change in the way the world works.  I hope the new release of corrupt files “ the Paradise Papers” following on from the “Panama  Papers” and others  can be an impetus for change in the way the world handles wealth – that thing that so few have and so many die without.

Sounds like almost Hippy idealism, but then we do have a Bello reputation to uphold for a bit longer. On the positive side lots of clever people sitting at home imagining things to be a bit different have also been busily thinking of technology advances to help move the world, as a whole, on from the messes we have sat ourselves down in.   The raft of solutions is what needs to grow.

Last year most states suddenly solved the problem of homelessness, and in a wink had hardly anyone sleeping rough – it showed we can do it!  Then growth in property prices went inexplicably nuts and we have a new generation of people who can’t afford homes.

Last week in the news there was a small article announcing $100Million for training places because it has just been noticed that the pandemic has stopped us importing (stealing from other countries) skilled workers, since we stopped investing in Unis, apprenticeships, and TAFE colleges. How amazing previously insurmountable possibilities are realised by fear and necessity.

It will be interesting to see how we cope with disruptions to the stuff our culture believes it needs. A few months ago  (in another town) I stopped for lunch and indulged in a youthful memory luxury – a bottle of iced coffee. It was in a can, and made in Turkey. Now the coffee beans were probably grown in South America, the milk from France, sugar from Cuba, the can from possibly Australian iron ore shipped to China, and then the whole thing shipped back here in a heavy oil burning cargo ship. Meerhaba, I have nothing against Turkey – our Volkswagen was well made there. But this growing massive movement of material in such small luxury items to make us addicted to getting anything we want any time, – Is this what is meant by economic growth?

Over the next few years there will be increasing disruptions in supply lines.  A great time to keep using those baking and self-sufficiency skills you dabbled with in lock downs.  A current hobby is growing my own coffee.  The process is hugely complex and time consuming but is kind of fun. It tastes fantastic, and the tree will grow fresh flowers and leaves to produce again next year in a natural concept of the term growth.

So here ends another perspective on the world from within our excellent community who so readily rose to the aid of all with the Bellingen Shire Support Network  (who are still sending out updates).  Being biologically trained I now acknowledge the change in cycle or phase as a sign to move on from this weekly ramble, after some 80 odd perspectives.  I have so many areas of learning that desperately want to grow, and a recognisable finite number of Monday nights in this cycle.

So, thanks for coming on some thought journeys, and remember this is just one perspective on the last 20 months.  Please check in with your own GP – let’s not let any unwelcome growths you have noticed be neglected while our gaze has been elsewhere.   And check in with your own wonderful mind – where can you grow, at no cost to the environment?  So much is possible when you look after your health, keep active, learning and engaged.

It is still fun to quote messages from music, after all that’s why cleverer people than me write it, so in the words of a less well-known indie feminist folk punk protest post romantic band from Brisbane:


“Treat yourself gently

Don’t you go crazy

Wondering what’s in that 90 percent

We can be foolish

Passionate, childish

Please let us let go this grieving lament.”

ISIS 1994


Yours Sincerely

Trevor Cheney


  • Gael Gray says:

    Thank you for your writings over the last wee while. I have very much appreciated them,
    Kind regards
    Gael Gray

  • Jen Nolan says:

    So impressed by your “ramblings” Trevor. Blessings to you and yours and happy growth in the future. With Gratitude. Jen

  • Taryn says:

    Just wanted to express my sincere gratitude for your updates throughout. Will be wishing you all the best through the busy and unpredictable future you all will be faced here in the Shire.


    Bravo and gracias.

  • Margaret Bell says:

    Oh no .. is this really the last Covid Update?! Thanks so much for your entertaining guidance Dr Trevor. I will miss your weekly ramblings.
    Margaret Bell

  • Margot says:

    I will miss your weekly ramblings Trevor.
    Thank you and enjoy those home grown coffees. ?

  • John Slater says:

    Thank you Trevor for your very interesting comments and thoughts about life. We will certainly miss it.


    John & Angela Slater

    Marx Hill

  • Lynn Tizzard says:

    Will miss your ramblings, Trevor. They informed, entertained and comforted. Thank you for all that! Warmest regards.

  • Jenny Green says:

    Thanks Trevor for your sane, rational, researched and funny updates every week. We are indebted to you and appreciate the time you have taken to inform our community. And a leader in setting up the first “drive through” Covid testing clinic in Australia.
    How lucky are we?

  • Wendy Tanner says:

    Many thanks Trevor for your interesting, relevant, informative and sometimes controversial comments, insights and opinions.
    You’ve done an amazingly consistent job, writing your weekly words over the last 80 or more weeks!!! Certainly time for a break!!
    Enjoy your Monday nights with Vicki …
    Best wishes from Wendy Tanner

  • Lyndall says:

    Thanks so much Trevor, I’m looking forward to reading your first book.

  • Vivianne says:

    Thank you so much Trevor. You have made this challenging time easier to understand in many ways.

  • Stephen Ash says:

    Nicely put , love the eloquant bards.

  • Seth Jordan says:

    Good work Doctor…. your community thanks you!

  • Angelle Hughes says:

    Dear Trevor,
    Thank you so much for the time you have invested to create these thought provoking ramblings and your tireless efforts in caring for the health of our residents. Bellingen is richer for having you within our community.
    With appreciation,

  • Bobbi and Nigel Downey says:

    Thank you Trevor for your weekly updates. Our family in South Africa has enjoyed your weekly ramblings too as we always forwarded them on to them

  • John Dorbis says:

    You have provided guidance and balance and will be missed – thank you ?

  • Thank you Trevor
    But what will we do without you.
    You explained everything and let as hope for a better future.
    Many thanks ? Carol

  • Helen Aiken says:

    Thanks Trevor, your ramblings have been a wonderful balance and a highlight in all that has been said about this pandemic over the past many months.

  • Helen Mower says:

    Thank you Trevor for your insights and wisdom about our Covid times. Always look forward to reading your weekly ramblings……you will be missed!

  • Jennie Beswick says:

    Thank you for giving me a smile every time I read your ramble. When you retire consider writing a book. Best wishes for the slightly rocky road ahead.

  • Odile Lejus says:

    Thanks a lot Trevor. I will miss your weekly.ramblings. Maybe you can surprise us every now and then with an appearance on this platform…. odile

  • Carolyn says:

    Thank you so much Trevor.?

  • Libby Knight says:

    Thanks so much Dr Trevor. I looked forward to your update each week and will miss your words of wisdom. I also look forward to a book…

  • ziggy says:


  • Lindsey says:

    Trev you have been blessed with insight and integrity you have blown me away with your genuine humanity and ought to be nominated for a Noble Peace Award Love Lindsey

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