Denied border permit leads to loss of flock

Phillipa travelled to Wagga Wagga in NSW in April to support her daughter after she gave birth to premature twins. Phillipa’s son-in-law was deployed overseas with the Australian Army at the time and was unable to provide immediate support.

After Phillipa’s daughter no longer needed her assistance, she applied for an exemption to return home to Gippsland on 18 August 2021. Initially, Phillipa applied for health, wellbeing, care and compassion reasons as she needed to attend medical appointments and have tests done for a pre- existing condition. In a second application submitted four days later, Phillipa added information about needing to return home to care for her livestock, which her husband was unable to attend to as he was required to leave their farm for work.

Phillipa provided supporting evidence with her application including a letter from the (then) Department of Environment and Primary Industries confirming her Property Identification Code for her livestock, a statutory declaration explaining the circumstances, identity documents and negative COVID-19 test results.

Phillipa then sent several emails to the Department in the days after she applied as she was increasingly concerned for her livestock’s wellbeing. One of Phillipa’s ewe’s had already died and the situation was becoming increasingly urgent.

In an email to the Department on 31 August 2021, Phillipa said:

Our paddock has no grazing feed left so without hand feeding, and an urgent worm treatment, the rest of the flock will quickly succumb to malnourishment and starvation. It is also lambing season so I URGENTLY need to attend to the sick ewe and be there for lambing ewes needing assistance and their feeding for lambs to survive.

I am greatly distressed and heartbroken by the loss of our ewe ... And now I am stressed and concerned at the risk to the rest of the flock and am panicking and in anguish over the pain and suffering I am causing to my animals by not attending to their care and urgent needs ... PLEASE can you help me.

When the Department failed to respond to her emails, Phillipa complained to the Ombudsman:

This seems inhumanely cruel to leave me unable to return home, to leave our animals to suffer and die and not respond with any details ... The pain and anguish this is causing myself, my husband and our animals is beyond bearable, cruel on every level and wrong.

The Department told the Ombudsman it asked Phillipa for additional information but that she did not provide it:

[Phillipa] failed to provide any sufficient evidence to support her travel circumstances and the case was rejected ... if an applicant’s circumstances change or they can provide new evidence – they are encouraged to lodge a new application with the Department.

On 9 September 2021, Phillipa told the Ombudsman she had taken the difficult decision to move or destroy her animals, as there was nobody to care for them.

Phillipa said:

I am beyond devastated and have sought medical help and counselling as I am not coping well. I cannot fathom the cruelty of this process and their decision.

Surrendering our animals has broken my heart, my spirit and my faith in our state government and the humanity of the people that make such decisions based on fear and not at all on human rights, compassion or justice.

The Department told the Ombudsman:

While it is understandable that people wish to enter Victoria to care for animals, in most cases, arrangements can be made for others to care adequately for animals. The threshold for exemptions in order to care for animals is therefore quite high, in the face of the significant risk to public health posed by entry into Victoria from high risk zones.

Please note: Outcomes may vary depending on individual circumstances