Breakthrough for Kaniva family, but Vic-SA border challenges remain

Tiarnee and Jonathan Dyer, from Kaniva, are worried how cross-border residents are going to survive both medically and financially after the border closes to them on Friday.
Tiarnee and Jonathan Dyer, from Kaniva, are worried how cross-border residents are going to survive both medically and financially after the border closes to them on Friday.

A few significant things have happened to Kaniva's Tiarnee Dyer since she shared her story with Australia.

Her plans to apply for an exemption from South Australia's upcoming closure to cross-border residents hit an obstacle.

She has written to, and received a response from, Prime Minister Scott Morrison about her family's situation.

A petition calling on the South Australian government to rescind the new restrictions has received more than 5400 signatures.

And most crucially, she has now been granted an exemption.

It's a relief for Ms Dyer, but issues remain. Many people living in border communities believe the Marshall government should reconsider the border closures, and that they will not stop agitating for this.

Recapping a tough week

From Friday, only Victorians who are considered essential travellers will be able to enter South Australia, leaving many residents from cross-border communities in a difficult position.

South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has said the aim of this new level of closure is to protect South Australians, as COVID-19 cases are being detected in western Victoria. There are two active cases in the West Wimmera as of Tuesday, and three in Horsham.

While some exemptions will be made, teachers, caregivers and others who rely on crossing the border for their livelihoods are affected.

Ms Dyer teaches in South Australia, her husband Jonathan farms there. Her two-year-old daughter Mabel relies on appointments at Adelaide's Women and Children's Hospital for expertise and surgery for her hip dysplasia, a condition she has had since birth.

Since the closures were first earmarked on Wednesday, Mr and Mrs Dyer have done interviews with statewide and national media programs.

"It's basically us calling for (the closures) to get rescinded," she said.

"We were told by SA Health we weren't able to apply for an exemption if we didn't receive a letter from our hospital, the Women's and Children's. I spoke to several different departments at the hospital yesterday and was still unable to get a letter.

"I spoke to a representative of SA Health on Sunday, and she asked me to speak to the hospital to get that letter. I was on hold and in contact with the hospital for an hour yesterday and unable to get that information."

"I wrote my letter to the Prime Minister last week, and we got a reply saying he would speak to the Premier (of South Australia) about our issues."

On Tuesday, the letter came. South Australia's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Dr Emily Kirkpatrick, wrote to her saying an exemption would be granted if Mabel required a face to face appointment.

"SA Health has not previously denied and will not deny urgent medical treatment that is required to be undertaken in South Australia for cross-border communities," the letter read in part.

Mabel's next specialist appointment in Adelaide is due Thursday.

Ms Dyer said she would continue to plead the region's case.

"If the person that has the support of the Prime Minister is treated like this, how are the patients that don't gain as much media attention being treated? Will they receive the adequate health care they require?" she said.

"It literally feels like we are mourning the loss of the ability to live our lives."

MESSAGE OF SHARED HARDSHIP: Maddi Redding with her son and Fiance Hamish. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

MESSAGE OF SHARED HARDSHIP: Maddi Redding with her son and Fiance Hamish. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Apsley couple plan next moves

Also becoming well-versed in media appearances is Apsley woman Maddi Redding, a member of the Cross Border Call Out group.

She wants to show South Australia's premier Steven Marshall the impact the harder border closure could cost his state's economy.

Her fiancee Hamish, a contract harvester, strips crops on the NSW-Queensland border, but has been deemed a non-essential worker.

Ms Redding says more than half of the crops Hamish plans to harvest this year - and as such more than half the family's annual income - are in New South Wales.

"The permit system NSW announced on Tuesday won't make a difference," she said. "I commend them for listening to rural Australia, but they are only allowing farmers 100 kilometres north of the border, and he needs to go another 1000 kilometres.

"We spend on average $250,000 alone in Naracoorte every year. That's $25,000 in GST, and there are ten farmers in our little community alone. So with tax alone... that's a quarter of a million dollars they are losing if we can't do business in SA."

"Since my original facebook, 2500 people have shared it, and then we sent that post to media outlets and politicians. Since then a lot of journos have slid into my DMs, and the support we've gotten is amazing. I think it means either a lot of people are in the same situation, or they see harvest needs to be done."

Ms Redding is an operating theatre nurse. She said despite the attention, she thought South Australian authorities had yet to fully appreciate the message about the damage the closure would do.

"I have applied for an exemption through South Australian Police and I've been denied," she said.

"I am now waiting on a response from SA Health but two of my other nursing colleagues have been declined after getting a letter from SA Health so I'm not holding out any hope."

Ms Redding said if nothing more had happened by the end of the week, Cross Border Call Out would contact more national news programs to draw attention to their cause.

Member for Mallee Anne Webster has renewed her criticism of the planned closure, saying in a statement on Tuesday it was "a step too far and is crushing communities".

Mrs Dyer and Mss Redding said they had both noticed in the past week no staff at border crossings to conduct COVID-19 testing, which border residents have needed to do every seven days to be allowed to cross.

What SA Health has said

SA Health has said it is considering travel exemptions "on a case by case basis and taking account of local epidemiology including evidence of community transmission".

On Monday, South Australia's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Michael Cusack said his department had spoken with the Dyers several times that day, assuring them Mabel would be able to cross for upcoming appointment.

"It is important to stress there is a need to go back and forth and get information about the case... particularly in relation to the urgency of the appointment," he said.

Asked whether the Dyers' story needed to get media coverage to get the attention it deserved, Dr Cusack said it was "a hard question" for him to answer.

"We have an exemptions process, and applications are made and we take an awful lot of care in relation to that," he said. "If it is possible to delay for even a month perhaps, that means the person could be coming from maybe a lower virus area."

The Mail-Times has contacted SA Pathology for comment on the border staffing issue.

What Victoria has said

On Friday August 14, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews hinted that health workforce members could come to the Wimmera, to save border residents from having to travel further inland to access medical appointments

A Victorian government spokeswoman told the Mail-Times telehealth was saving patients regional communities unnecessary travel and potential exposure to the virus.

"With 46 per cent of hospital specialist clinic activity now delivered remotely, our hospitals made more than 60,000 video calls to patients across the month of July," she said.

"Travel across the state for medical appointments is allowed under coronavirus restrictions, but all residents of border communities who need to travel long distances should do their utmost to reduce the risk of transmission while they are in the city - wear a mask, keep a distance, practice good hygiene and get tested with even the mildest symptoms."

This story Breakthrough for one family, but SA-Vic border challenges remain first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.