State border battles look set to continue this week as NSW boarding school families with children at school in Queensland keep the pressure on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to “show some compassion” and ease COVID-19 restrictions.
A campaign featuring photos of students pleading to be reunited with their parents alongside the hashtag #nobordersforboarders has flooded social media in the last fortnight.
Pictured front page of today’s Wee Waa News is Year 12 student Braith Rohde. He is the son of Darren and Alison Rohde, who live on a farm about 20 kilometres from Wee Waa. The 18-year-old is in his final year of school at Scots PGC College in Warwick, south-east Queensland.
Braith is pictured holding up a sign with a clear message: ”My hometown is Wee Waa. I need to prepare for ATAR! This year has been hard enough, I just want to go home.”
“It is devastating for us that we are not allowed to bring Braith home to the safety of our farm, which is over 600 kilometres away from the closest known COVID-19 case, for his last school holidays,” said Mrs Rohde who has also written directly to the Queensland Premier about the border closure.
Mrs Rohde said the restrictions were concerning and confusing for many parents in the North West region.
The end of Term 3 is just weeks away, but if students at boarding school in Queensland want to travel home to NSW for school holidays then they will need to quarantine, at their own expense, for two weeks upon their return to the Sunshine State.
The harsh quarantine rules have raised both financial and mental health concerns.
Boarding school students were exempt from quarantine upon their return to Queensland during the first border closure earlier this year.
There are currently exemptions in place for some agricultural workers and people from certain postcodes within the so-called ‘border bubble’ but not for boarding school students, and many students worry they might not be able to return home until the Christmas holidays.
“As a family, we understand the concerns of the Queensland government trying to control the spread of COVID-19 in the state but it is very frustrating,” said Mrs Rohde.
“We are now being told that not only can we not access Queensland to see Braith, but that Braith is not allowed to come home without then undertaking mandatory isolation upon his return to Queensland at our expense.
“Isolation is not an option for Braith as his preliminary exams start shortly after returning to school and as an extremely academic child, Braith is very focused on his studies and achieving the best exam results possible.
“Missing these exams is simply not an option,” said Mrs Rohde.
“We are going to have to send him to Brisbane, an area which at the moment is very much a COVID-19 hotspot to stay with family friends because we have no family for him to stay with around Warwick.”
Premier Palaszczuk announced the border closure in early August due to her concerns about COVID-19 transmission rates in southern states and declared that NSW and the ACT would join Victoria on Queensland’s ‘coronavirus hotspot’ list.
“We have to put Queenslanders first,” Ms Palaszczuk said at the time.
The announcement was a blow to the Rohde family and many others in the region who rely on services in Queensland and also contribute to the state’s economy.
Mrs Rohde said Braith has been a boarder at Scots for five-and-a-half years and his older brother Justin also completed his schooling there.
“Sending our children to boarding school was not an easy decision for us and as such the choice of school was extremely important,” said Mrs Rohde.
“Scots PGC College in Warwick, located 500kms away offered everything we wanted – the excellent opportunities that the school presented both academically and with their extra-curricular programs were outstanding as well as the caring nature of the entire staff there.
“We never once objected to the fact that the school was located interstate and we relished the opportunities our sons would experience there.”
Mrs Rohde said Braith suffered from bronchiolitis as a baby, which has caused health struggles during his life and so his health is classed as ‘high risk’. Adding to her worries about him being forced to spend time in Brisbane rather than on the farm at home.
“This is absolutely ridiculous. Certainly not the safest option for Braith who would be 600km from a COVID-19 case should he be allowed home.
“Again, our family acknowledge that the Queensland government feel it is doing the right thing but you cannot throw a blanket over the entire state of NSW and declare us a hotspot when in fact our closest case of COVID-19 is in Queensland,” said Mrs Rohde.
Last Friday, the Queensland government extended its ‘border bubble’ to include Moree.
Premier Palaszczuk said the extension would help boarding school families and people impacted by a freak and devastating fire in the town of Mungindi last Tuesday night.
The town has lost its only supermarket, butcher’s shop and clothing store – the sister store to PJ’s Country Wares in Wee Waa.
The announcement means residents in the border community of Mungindi should now be able to access groceries and supplies in Moree as well as health services in Queensland without facing quarantine issues.
Mungindi is split by the Barwon River and part considered to be in NSW and part in Queensland.
Moree Plains Shire Mayor Katrina Humphries lobbied hard to get the Premier to budge on the ‘border bubble’ taking her fight to that national media on Channel 7’s Sunrise program.
“Please move off your pedestal, open the borders and let people live their lives,” said Cr Humphries.
The Namoi branch of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association is due to meet in Narrabri on Tuesday this week.To order photos from this page click here