BORDER CLOSURE

'There is light at the end of the tunnel': Residents welcome SA-Vic border change

The 70-kilometre South Australia-Victoria border zone and Naracoorte's Laurel and Kirsty Lees. Pictures: supplied
The 70-kilometre South Australia-Victoria border zone and Naracoorte's Laurel and Kirsty Lees. Pictures: supplied

With changes to Victoria and South Australia's 70-kilometre border zone will reunite families after months of COVID separation.

Currently, they are only allowed to travel for essential services such as work, study, providing or receiving care and obtaining essential items.

For some, this will mean seeing their families again after months on their own.

Laurel Lees was facing a life without a home before the premier's announcement. The Longerenong College student was set to complete her Diploma in Agribusiness Management this week, and is now able to return to her family home in Naracoorte.

"When the hard border closure came in, she had to make a decision about whether she finished her tertiary education or didn't," her mother Kirsty said.

"She decided to stay and she finishes on Thursday, and until Tuesday we didn't know if she was going to be able to come back. She boards at the college and that arrangement ends this week, so she was effectively going to be homeless.

"The college has given her some leeway given the circumstances."

Mrs Lees said her daughter may still need to stay with friends within the border bubble, while she waits for South Australian police to process her travel application.

"If approved, she still has to isolate once in South Australia. It's still another four weeks before we get to see her, but that's still better than it was," she said.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel. I would just love for me and all my friends not to have to undergo that test every seven days."

For Lillimur's Emma Bayly, the change will mean her Mount Gambier-based family gets to meet her son Nate for the second time. Mrs Bayly had post-natal appointments cancelled by the hospital where she gave birth in early March, and had to go to Ballarat for them instead.

"We have been able to see our maternal child health nurse, and I did get a call from the Mount Gambier and Districts Health Service in late June, but I didn't call back," she said.

"(It means) so much: I'll now be able to see my Mum and stay with her a few days so I can catch up on some sleep or catch up with a friend while she watches him. She can spend some one-on-one time with him which she hasn't been able to. I can see my grandpa who hasn't seen Nate since he was born."

Mrs Bayly expected border communities to support businesses on the opposite side of where they lived now there would be greater scope to.

Apsley's Paula Gust, who oversees the Cross Border Call Out initiative advocating for border residents affected by the South Australian restrictions, said the imminent changes were a sign of progress.

"We need to see steps coming along to give people hope that we will have a life into the future," she said.

"Everybody is absolutely begging for cross-border people to be able to travel freely in all of South Australia. I want to see my daughter's boarding school in Adelaide where she is living, and to take her to dental appointments to get her braces, and for our family to be able to go to Robe for holidays.

"As I'm saying it, I almost feel guilty, like I'm asking for too much, but I'm doing everything possible. We've earned it: We have proven we are looking after ourselves and protecting South Australia.

"It's about time we were acknowledged for that."

This story 'There is light at the end of the tunnel': Residents welcome SA-Vic border change first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.