Boarders facing border dilemma

Boarders facing border dilemma

Coronavirus
ISOLATION FAMILY: Maggie Siemer, Maddie Baxter, Harry and Charlie Siemer and Ned Davies, all from Broken Hill, NSW, isolated together in April before returning to school.

ISOLATION FAMILY: Maggie Siemer, Maddie Baxter, Harry and Charlie Siemer and Ned Davies, all from Broken Hill, NSW, isolated together in April before returning to school.

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FAMILIES based in Far West NSW are urging the SA government to take a "common sense" approach to the border with school holidays to begin at the end of next week.

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FAMILIES based in Far West NSW are urging the SA government to take a "common sense" approach to the border with school holidays to begin at the end of next week.

With a number of school-aged students from that region attending boarding school in Adelaide, parents are once again negotiating what to do with their children for the coming weeks - not see them during the holidays or face a potential two-week isolation period on their return to school.

Pastoralists' Association of West Darling president Matt Jackson said this had been an ongoing problem since students returned in Term 2, but with this final term a short one and including major exams, it was placing extra pressure on families.

In a letter to SA Premier Steven Marshall, Mr Jackson said people from that region had little choice but to send their children away to school, with Adelaide the best option.

SA Police commissioner Grant Stevens said there was "leniency" and exemptions available for those living in Broken Hill, NSW.

"There are not too many people in Broken Hill who are disadvantaged by the fact that they are simply located in a different state," he said.

But Mr Jackson said there were cases of some families getting the exemptions approved, while other families, in similar areas and in similar situations, did not.

He said without exemptions, families may choose to not have their children return home this school holidays, which would mean finding a family member or friend in SA willing to take care of them, further extending the time away from their parents for children as young as 12, or take on the task of self-isolating for two weeks at the end of the holidays.

In the second case, he said this could be an extra expense for people still dealing with drought, while also taking one parent off-farm to isolate with their children, leaving the other spouse at home alone.

There are not too many people in Broken Hill who are disadvantaged by the fact that they are simply located in a different state. - GRANT STEVENS

"It's creating more distress for the family," he said.

"It drains on the wellbeing of the children and the family."

Mr Jackson said for most people in Far West NSW, Adelaide was their primary place to do business and seek medical help, with the tough border creating wider problems.

"In the area we're in, there hasn't been a community-transition COVID-19 case any closer than Orange (900 kilometres away)," he said.

"This is just a line on a map that separates us. We're just trying to use common sense."

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Mr Jackson said station life was already quite isolated, with visitation outside the family unit infrequent.

"Requiring boarding students to isolate for two weeks prior to returning to school is completely nonsensical when they have just spent two weeks of school holidays isolated on a remote property," he said.

Last week, a reprieve was granted to NSW-based students boarding in Qld, removing the need for isolation on returning to school, but with conditions on movements outside property boundaries and visitors.

A SA government spokesperson said the requirement for interstate students at boarding schools in SA to undertake a full 14-days strict quarantine at the start of term had been in place throughout the pandemic.

This is just a line on a map that separates us. We're just trying to use common sense. - MATT JACKSON

"The state government has been monitoring the situation in NSW and recent encouraging results," they said.

"Any border closures will not remain in place a day longer than is deemed necessary by our public health officials to protect the safety of South Australians."

George and Jenny Siemer, Koonawarra Station, via Broken Hill, have three children at school in Adelaide.

Mrs Siemer said they applied for exemptions for their children, with word finally coming through on Tuesday, but the approval process seemed haphazard. She still had not heard back from SA Police about an application she made last school holidays.

FAMILY REUNITED: The Siemer family of (back) George, Harry and Charlie, (front) Jenny, Maggie and Hugh.

FAMILY REUNITED: The Siemer family of (back) George, Harry and Charlie, (front) Jenny, Maggie and Hugh.

In previous term breaks they had the option to isolate at Mr Seimer's parent's place in Port Broughton, but this brought further pressures as well as impacting the schooling of their youngest child, who is completing School of the Air.

Mrs Siemer said they already lived a pretty isolated life, heading into Broken Hill maybe every three weeks for groceries.

She said it was hard on the children to even consider not coming home, with her eldest "loving station life", and her daughter away from them for the first time. The tough border restrictions also meant she was unable to be with her children in medical situations, such as when one child suffered a concussion.

She said exemptions needed to be easier for all families on remote properties, or, failing that, guidelines installed similar to Qld and NSW, such as limits on visitors.

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