Anger across border

Police chief Stevens

Police chief Stevens

Apsley resident Paula Gust lives close enough to the South Australian border, she can step over her paddock fence into the state, yet she, along with hundreds of others, have been locked out of the community that they call home.

New restrictions, due to come into effect on Friday, will mean community members from across the border will no longer be able to enter the state unless they are an essential worker, a year 11 or 12 student going to school or they are undertaking agricultural/primary industry work at a location in Victoria which is situated at or near the South Australian border and that is accessible without stopping in any township or built up area.

A Facebook page started by Ms Gust last week, Cross Border Call Out, attracted thousands of likes in a matter of days, and stories of residents who are will be unable to work on either side of the border, attend medical appointments, go to school or do their shopping have since flooded the page.

Ms Gust said like many people in the community, that her whole life is based in South Australia, and the new restrictions have caused huge hardship to her family.

"Naracoorte is everything - our kids have done all their schooling there, I've worked there, shopping, sport, medical, dental, our whole life is there," she said.

"We don't go to Victoria for anything really - no way would we go to Horsham, we refuse to.

"The government are shutting the door on us and forcing us to go back into the lion's den."

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Due to the restrictions, Ms Gust has had to make the difficult decision to pull her daughter out of her school and send her to boarding school five months earlier than planned and she said the new restrictions were going to have devastating consequences for everyone.

"Naracoorte will struggle without our business - it's not just 100 people that come over the border," she said.

"Plus there will be a lot of health consequences out of this."

People on the page have reported being turned away from potentially life-saving medical care, and being told to travel to Horsham, where there have been 11 cases, with three active cases.

"If we were at war, all the states would get together, we would act as a country. Well, we are at war now, against a virus, but the states are all saying 'Not my problem, shut it down, you're on your own'," Ms Gust said.

"Through the whole process, we've just seen things about restrictions pop up on social media or the news and we did it all from day dot," she said.

"We complied, the more rules they put on us, the more we adapted.

"Swabs every week, we were willing to do that, we would do whatever we had to do and it is disappointing that once again the rural people are forgotten."

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Premier Steven Marshall said the government was concerned about the possibility of the virus spreading to regional Victoria.

"I feel for people who do live on that border, this will be hugely disruptive," he said.

"It doesn't come in for a further week, so people have a chance to get their arrangements in order.

"We are extraordinarily concerned about the seeding of Coronavirus into regional Victoria - it is not a disease that has a rim fence around Melbourne, it is seeding further out and we have to do everything we can to protect the south east of South Australia and more broadly, the people of state against Coronavirus.

"We have been progressively increasing our restrictions, measuring it with the increase in risk. There will be some exemptions, in particular for people that have a property that straddle that border and for year 11 and 12 students but apart from that are going to be extraordinarily strict.

"There can be some exemptions and exceptions, but we need to have a very very good reason, because we are extraordinarily concerned about seeding of Coronavirus into regional Victoria and we don't want it coming across our border."

Meanwhile, Member for Mackillop Nick McBride said he will continue to advocate for the cross border community.

"There is no doubt our Cross-Border Community members are facing a huge challenge with the tightening of restrictions," he said.

"I am - and will continue to advocate for our community members, who, while divided by the border, I know - call South Australia home."

"It will be particularly difficult for these people who will no longer be able to go to work, do their shopping, or send their children to school across the border in South Australia. I can assure you - I have communicated the complicated reality of these changes to both SA Health and Police."

"I have never wanted to see our Cross-Border Community members pushed further into Victoria for their daily lives. It will impact on them emotionally and socially. It will impact economically on many regional South Australian businesses who provide goods and services to this community."

"This decision has not been made lightly. It has been done to further protect the wider South Australian community from this virus. There are 16 active cases of Covid-19 in the Glenelg shire, which includes the town of neighbouring Portland. SA Health and police are taking this hard line to keep the virus out of SA."

"I have had discussions with South Australian Police, and they are hopeful that these new restrictions will be in place for the relatively short time-frame of 3 - 4 weeks. I understand these new restrictions will be one of the first to be relaxed when the number of COVID cases in regional Victoria reduce."

"I encourage cross border community members to make themselves familiar with the new direction as the changes will come into effect from 12.01 Friday, August 21. I encourage people to go on the COVID 19 site for more information."

"I have been talking to my cross border parliamentary colleagues to look at ways we can support this community at this difficult time. We are in this together."

This story Anger across border first appeared on Naracoorte Herald.