Border closures separate school children from parents

Amanda’s worst nightmare as a parent was slowly being realised when the border closures meant her teenage daughter Harriet, who was attending school in regional NSW, was locked out of Victoria with no clear return date.

With the school holidays in effect, Amanda sent Harriet to her grandparent’s property in NSW whilst she ran the bureaucratic gauntlet of trying to get her daughter a border permit to return home to the family farm. .

Weeks passed and still there was no concession for Harriet.

“Initially, there was a sense of ‘great, we don't have to go back to school, we can ride bikes on friend’s farms for the next two weeks,” explained Amanda.

“But when it started flipping into that third week of them just sitting in limbo, she (Harriet) was ringing up to twelve times a day saying, ‘Mum, I just want to come home. Come and get me; I can't do this anymore.’

“So yeah, it was huge anxiety for us as parents for our child.”

Eventually a solution was offered up; Harriet could travel from the COVID-free town of Yanco into virus plagued Sydney and then fly to Melbourne and spend two weeks in hotel quarantine before being allowed to return to her home.

“The thought of actually taking young healthy, regional rural kids and dumping them in a hotel quarantine was just preposterous.” said Amanda.

“It broke my heart, the fear of the hotel quarantine COVID risks, I felt were much higher than bringing the children directly home.”

As Harriet was a minor, her father also had to join her in quarantine, leaving the family farm for two weeks to be by her side in a windowless hotel room for a fortnight.

Two of the ten Victorian families who sent their children to the school in Yanco and were caught up in the border permit saga have subsequently withdrawn their children from the school, scarred by the closed border experience.