While there appears to be promising signs of opening the Australian borders by Christmas, I have continued to reflect on the challenges faced by the people living in the Barwon electorate and the Far West as a result of the three border closures during the pandemic.

My teams in Narrabri, Cobar and Broken Hill have fielded hundreds of enquiries each month regarding access to services, business, family and education interstate.

During last week’s private members’ statements session, I highlighted the anguish and anxiety felt by people living in the Far West increase every day that they were unable to access services they normally would.

Aside from medical issues, I also reflected on family members denied access to loved ones at times of need.

The border closures exposed how reliant regional NSW communities are on interstate medical services. The system works in a fashion where there is free movement across borders.

As soon as that was stopped, people had to travel vast distances in NSW to get services.

I acknowledge the swift and non-partisan response from the NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Any time I contacted him with a Victorian border issue that was dire he assisted immediately.

The NSW Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish and his team also worked tirelessly advocating for the people from NSW.

For that, I thank them.

The border closures have resulted in the cruel and heartless treatment of people who don’t deserve it.

Our state leaders must do better.

A blueprint for change in Barwon

During last week’s parliamentary sitting week, I highlighted the state’s crucial role in children’s lives so as to avoid vast differences in outcomes based on where they lived.

For many children in Barwon, the historical performance of health, education and economic metrics would show that many kids in regional NSW are not currently destined for the best life possible.

From a health perspective, we know that life expectancy and preventable death statistically get worse the further west you go.

Our medical staff do the best they can, but attracting and retaining medical staff into regional areas is a nationwide problem.

We also know that education provides the foundation for long-run social and economic success, both for individuals and for communities.

The educational results attained in the Barwon electorate are generally lower than the remainder of NSW, with attendance rates much lower in some remote parts of the state.

The teachers we have are great, and doing their best, but attracting and retaining suitably qualified staff is an ongoing challenge.

Kids also require engaging learning environments with adequate electives that stimulate them.

In addition, most of the state’s universities are clustered in capital cities or regional centres.

That means kids who can’t travel because of distance or other disadvantage have an uphill battle to access further education.

When you take the lower incomes of regional communities and include the increased costs of food and fresh produce, transport and accessing health services, the disadvantage becomes clearer.

I want to see kids in the bush get the same sort of opportunities as kids in the city, and it is my view that parliament has a binding responsibility to make sure that any child in NSW is given the best possible start in life.

Wilcannia music teacher nominated for special award.

I was recently contacted by Dan Rosen, the chief executive of ARIA music awards.

Dan advised us that Sarah Donnelley, a music teacher from Wilcannia Central School in the Barwon electorate was one of four finalists selected for the 2020 Telstra ARIA Music Teacher Award.

‘Miss Sarah’, as she’s known to the school children, created a reworked version of the song From Little Things, Big Things Grow by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly.

During the COVID-19 lockdown when students were not able to attend school, Sarah adapted her music program to keep her students connected. The award ceremony will be held on November 25 and broadcast on the Nine Network.

I urge you to support Sarah’s nomination by voting for her here.

Grandparents’ Day 2020

Happy Grandparents’ Day to all the amazing grandparents who were celebrated on Sunday, October 25. On this day we said thank you for the love, care and support that grandparents provide to our families.

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