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A heartbreaking image of a family desperately hugging over a barricade the separates Queensland (QLD) and New South Wales (NSW) has given a face to the despair that border communities are feeling over the snap harsh border closures that see families torn apart and businesses going under.
The image, which has gone viral, depicts a family split by an imaginary line. The young mother had to make the decision to remain on the NSW side of the border to run the family business after a snap hard border closure two weeks ago meant that she would no longer be able to move freely over the state line.
Her husband and five children, including the sweet six-month-old child pictured, remain at their home on the Queensland side. The tragedy lies in the fact that we’re only talking a matter of minutes dividing them.
And their story is not isolated. Hundreds of families are in the same position as a state line divides the border communities of the southern Gold Coast and Northern NSW.
Local business owner Summa Hicks has been unable to work in her store even though it is literally minutes from her home.
“I own a business in Coolangatta which is 1.8km from my home in Tweed Heads, my home is 800m from the border but the closures mean I can’t work in my store,” she tells Bounty Parents.
“I never thought my dream of having my own business would come to feeling like I don’t belong in Australia. We are a community divided by political leaders.”
Summa employs staff from both sides of the border, one of whom is based on the QLD side who has been able to keep the store operation for short periods of time.
“My business is classed as essential in both states, however QLD’s new border classifications don’t qualify me as an essential worker? I am trading with one staff member at very reduced hours and like many businesses in Coolangatta and Tweed heads we’re under extreme financial pressure.”
Summa Hicks is facing an uncertain future as the business she owns, just metres from her own front door, is on the wrong side of the border.
Perhaps most frustrating for Summa is the lack of clarity and communication about exactly what she is allowed to do. Like many Australians, she wants to do the right thing, but messaging is confusing.
“I have applied for a QLD exemptions pass with no response at all,” she tells Bounty Parents.
“I have signed numerous petitions and attended zoom meetings in a bid to get clarification, however all I am told is to attempt to cross and see if I can get past the checkpoints.
“Crossing seems to be all dependent on what each police officer classes as essential. One day one of my couriers, who had his first vaccine, a negative COVID test result and the correct pass, was allowed through the border checkpoint in the morning without a problem, but was turned back when attempting another crossing that same afternoon. Nobody at the QLD Covid hotline can explain why this would happen.
“We need a bubble or something in place for border towns to function and thrive. Until you live and work this close to the borders and have to operate under both states rules you don’t understand what our lives are like. No sunshine here at the moment!”
Personally my own family is impacted by the closures too. I live a few minutes drive from the border on the NSW side. When the closures hit, my 20yo daughter had to choose which side to stay on – NSW where her work is, or QLD where her University is. When her work was able to transfer her, she made the decision to remain on the QLD side. We’ve not seen her for two weeks and have no idea when we will again.
My husband has months of work lined up on the QLD side that he is now locked out of, and if he’s unable to hustle up some on the NSW side soon he will have to make the move to stay on the QLD side, away from myself and our three young children, just to keep his business afloat.
And we’re not the only family in that position. Hundreds of families on either side of the great divide have had to make those same decisions.
“My husband scrambled over the border when the announcement was made,” Bilambil resident, Trish told Bounty Parents.
While Trish remained in NSW with the couple’s 10yo twin girls, her husband Phil moved into QLD to work in his business.
“We haven’t seen him in two weeks, and won’t see him until borders open. It breaks my heart that it may not be until the end of the year.
“The girls miss him so much. We hate the borders, who knows when we will see him again. It’s not easy for any of us.”
Border closures are leaving Australian families with an uncertain future.
As a regional community it feels like we are forgotten by our state leaders. It feels heavy here. We’re suffering.
During lockdowns last year the two states operated with a border bubble that allowed the border communities to co-exist, but this time around there is no such cooperation.
There is an us vs. them feeling that I’ve never experienced in this country before. It’s heart wrenching.
Families like my own are trying hard to do the right thing. We’re getting vaccines, we’re abiding by lockdown rules and we’re trying hard to do the right thing by our communities. But all of this while our livelihoods and our families futures hang on a balance because of an imaginary line.
As we struggle through we urge those in power to hear us and do the right thing by those of us who are trying to do the right thing by you.