Border closures and impacts to Barwon communities
While there appear to be promising signs of opening the Australian borders by Christmas, I have continued to reflect on the challenges faced by the people living in the Barwon electorate and the Far West as a result of the three border closures during the Pandemic. My teams in Narrabri, Cobar and Broken Hill have fielded hundreds of enquiries each month regarding access to services, business, family and education interstate.
During last week’s Private Members’ Statements session, I highlighted the anguish and anxiety felt by people living in the Far West increase every day that they were unable to access services they normally would. Aside from medical issues, I also reflected on the families with dying relatives unable to be at their bedside as they passed away. So much pain, so much mental stress. Family members denied access to loved ones at times of need.
We did have some success with getting QLD boarding school students home for the holidays, for that I thank the MPs who were involved, the ICPA and individual parents who helped make that happen. There were about 44 families in Barwon who stood to be affected by that.
The border closures exposed how reliant Regional NSW communities are on interstate medical services. The system works in a fashion where there is free movement across borders. As soon as that was stopped people had to travel vast distances in NSW to get services.
I acknowledge the swift and non-partisan response from the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Any time I contacted him with a Victorian border issue that was dire he assisted immediately. In one case a farming father needed to get to Melbourne to see his son who was gravely ill. He couldn’t isolate in Victoria because of animal welfare issues on his property. A common sense quarantine arrangement was reached to allow the father to see his son, and get back to his remote property to tend to his animals.
The NSW Cross Border Commissioner, James McTavish and his team also worked tirelessly advocating for the people from NSW. For that, I thank them.
People in Regional NSW have to deal with a lot. The border closures have resulted in the cruel and heartless treatment of people who don’t deserve it. Our State leaders must do better.