COVID-19 closure leaves NSW-Queensland border residents suffering ‘grief and trauma’

Painter Leah Bartholomew has always loved making art, but she never thought 2020 would be the year she had to choose between her work and her home.

Ms Bartholomew lives in Coolangatta, just over the Queensland border from New South Wales but her work studio is a 40 minute drive south in Byron Bay, which is outside the “border bubble” zone.

Currently, border residents are only able to move freely between NSW and Queensland if they stay within the designated border zone postcodes.

Ms Bartholomew said since the Queensland Government implemented a hard border shutdown last weekend, she has made the tough decision to live permanently at her work place.

“It means I can’t see my family members who live in Queensland,” she said.

“I also have no idea when I’m going to get back home again.

Moving closer to work

Father of three and construction business owner Corey Hobbins said he is also planning on leaving his Gold Coast home to live in northern New South Wales so he can continue to earn an income for his family.

Gold Coast resident Corey Hobbins is moving into a caravan across the border so he can continue to work.(ABC News: Gemma Sapwell)

“We’ve got jobs all the way down to Lismore, Alstonville, Goonellabah that we effectively can’t service at the moment unless I move south of the bubble,” he said.

“I’ll take our caravan and move down into northern New South Wales and I plan on not coming home until the borders are open.”

Mr Hobbins he is worried about the affect the move it will have on his children.

“They will miss their dad, they won’t be able to have a cuddle every night when I get home from work, it’s not going to have the greatest effect on them,” he said.

Border communities suffering ‘trauma’

Gold Coast-based clinical psychologist, Melissa Taitimu, said some of her border community clients are suffering distress due to the upheaval of their daily lives and the ongoing uncertainty around border closures.

“Often people talk about stress and anxiety but I don’t think that quite cuts it, I think it’s not forceful enough for what people are going through,” Dr Taitimu said.

“The border closures have completely altered the rhythm of people’s daily life and people are finding it difficult to find ways to cope, they’re in a hyper-vigilant stress state.”

Families at breaking point

Being in a constant state of stress is something mother of three Elizabeth Sayer can relate to.

She lives with her husband and three children in Bilambil in northern New South Wales.

Both she and her husband work in Queensland, and her two eldest children also attend school there.

Clay Slayer stands with his wife Elizabeth and their three children, Poppie, Macy and Louie.
Elizabeth and Clay Sayer live in NSW but work in QLD and their children also go to school across the border.(ABC News: Gemma Sapwell)

The family travels across the border multiple times a day, and over the past five months, long traffic delays at border checkpoints and constantly changing permit requirements have taken a toll on the family.

“I’m at breaking point,” she said.

“One of my daughters is not normally an anxious child at all — and now we notice she has got anxiety, she’s always stressing about getting to school on time.”

A sign at the Coolangatta border reads 'Road Closed ahead, police control ahead'.
Road closures and border checkpoints between Tweed Heads and the Gold Coast have meant lengthy delays for motorists in recent months.(ABC News: Gemma Sapwell)

After an incident where her six-year-old daughter suffered a serious medical episode at school, and border traffic meant she was unable to meet the ambulance in Queensland, Ms Sayer said her family has started looking at rentals in Queensland.

“A lot of the girls I work with, they’re in Queensland, so they’ve offered us to move in with them which is lovely, but we’re a family of five so that’s a last resort,” she said.

Source link