Frustrated Families on Western Australia-Northern Territory Border Feel Pain Over COVID-19 Rules

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Families on the border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory have expressed frustration at the lack of clarity in travel rules amid the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Alana Hunt and her family live a few hundred yards from the NT-WA border, but for the past 15 years have relied on the nearest town, Kununurra, WA, for work and essential services.

She said it had been a “roller coaster ride” trying to navigate the changing rules, with the family repeatedly trapped by changing restrictions.

“We knew these things were going to be happening for so long and I asked for some sort of process to be put in place for border residents,” Ms. Hunt said.

After 18 months of the pandemic, Ms Hunt said it was disappointing that more was not done to accommodate the relatively small number of people living at the border.

The WA and NT governments have been contacted for comment.

Residents stay home from work and school while facing trips of 500 km to shop for groceries due to the border closure.(

ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seabourne

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“Pretty big hassle”

WA’s decision to impose 14-day quarantine measures on visitors to the territory, in response to the latest outbreak, has left Ms Hunt’s family in limbo.

Her husband, Chris Griffiths, couldn’t go to work and her son had to stay home after school.

They now face a 500-kilometer drive to Katherine for groceries and medical supplies, instead of a 20-minute drive.

Ms Hunt believes their situation could have been avoided if bureaucrats had listened to their concerns and provided clearer metrics for people at the border.

“On the one hand, we are really grateful for the border closures and blockages that are happening because they feel like the only thing protecting Australia,” she said.

“But that has been a big problem because we have to go through police checkpoints every morning on the way to school and work.

She said she felt the local police were doing their best to accommodate people, but the uncertainty was hard to live with.

“We’re just out of sight and out of mind for the people who legislate in Perth,” Ms. Hunt said.

An LED border sign on a desert road.  It reads: fourteen days of quarantine required
People entering WA from the NT are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.(

ABC Kimberley: Rebecca Nadge

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No last goodbye

It was a particularly upsetting time for Mr Griffiths, who was unable to see his sister until she passed away on Tuesday evening.

“Me, mom and my other sister couldn’t come in to see her to say our last goodbyes,” he said.

A family of five stands in a dusty alley in front of a metal gate.
Alana Hunt (center) and her family have lived in their bush neighborhood for 15 years and typically travel to Kununurra in Washington state every day.(

Provided: Alana Hunt

)

The couple, who are not vaccinated, believe that a better vaccination program would improve the situation.

“It’s pretty calm to be aware of a vaccination call – half of that crowd in town don’t know it exists,” Griffiths said.

Ms Hunt said she should consider traveling to Kununurra if any of their elderly relatives need urgent medical attention.

“If that happens, we’ll just have to drive straight into town in an emergency and cross the border and deal with the ramifications of that later,” she said.

The couple hope to receive an update from the WA government on their situation in the coming days, but urged both governments to work towards a long-term solution.

“We have constantly tried to communicate our situation and things are improving,” Ms. Hunt said.

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