Imagine running an aged care facility … with 150 staff … and 150 residents … and then coronavirus hits.

That’s the challenge that’s been facing Ann Knight, the 106th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers.

When Ann became director of aged care services at St Luke’s Care last year, her job was already hard. But when COVID arrived, her workload and challenges dramatically increased.

The facility was placed under lockdown. Residents were prevented from going on excursions. Children were prevented from seeing their parents. Routines were disrupted and tensions increased. But despite the pressure, Ann and her hardworking staff have kept the residents safe – none have succumbed to coronavirus.

Managing a large facility in inner-city Sydney is a world removed from Ann’s childhood.

Ann grew up in Whyalla, the small, steel-making town in South Australia. Life choices seemed limited: boys were expected to work for BHP; girls to become a teacher or nurse. Ann never felt like she belonged. She left town after finishing school, moving to Adelaide, then Melbourne, then Sydney.

At the time, Ann wasn’t sure what she was looking for … but now she’s found it.