Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has revealed how his life has changed irrevocably over the past 12 months and how some of the decisions he made heavily impacted his closest family members.
Sutton has become one of the most recognisable faces during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and he spoke on a new episode of the Taking Care podcast on the toll that took.
“You get torn apart over this stuff, I continue to. There is no path of least resistance. There are decisions to be made that will affect thousands upon thousands of people and cause harms,” he said.
“You were just trying to find the least worst pathway possible.”
Sutton said deciding on the first lockdown was difficult for him personally as it affected his family.
“My brother lost his job in the first lockdown as a consequence of some of the decisions I made,” he said.
He said one of the biggest decisions early on in the pandemic was cancelling the Grand Prix as there were still major mass gatherings allowed across the country.
“That was a really critical decision around the fact we probably couldn’t tolerate mass gatherings of that scale going forward,” he said.
‘Putting my kids to bed but my mind being elsewhere. I felt awful as a father.’
Working 16-hour-plus days, Prof Sutton leaned on the support of his family, friends and colleagues, meditated and spoke to a psychologist to try and compartmentalise.
“Putting my kids to bed but my mind being elsewhere. I felt awful as a father,” he said.
“I felt like I was with my children, but I was absent for weeks and weeks on end.”
Fronting press conferences on a daily basis, Prof Sutton and other Australian health officials have been elevated to celebrities in some circles.
As the subject of TikTok videos, Facebook fan clubs and merchandise including T-shirts and doona covers, Prof Sutton has learned to deal with the scrutiny and recognition that comes with being in the public eye.
‘I’m stopped in the street now for selfies and all kinds of reasons.’
“I’m stopped in the street now for selfies and all kinds of reasons,” he said.
“I was at Bunnings a couple of months ago and the guy said ‘you look a lot like that …’ and I just nodded and said ‘I am that guy, I’m that annoying guy on TV that you see every night’.
“That’s how I introduce myself now.”
– With AAP