Broken borders, broken families

By Adrienne Hartnett

Two weeks since tightened border restrictions were introduced, Rutherglen residents are still being left out in the cold.

The NSW government is ignoring requests by local businesses and politicians to include the town in the border bubble. 

The tough new rules, implemented after a spike in cases in Melbourne two weeks ago, has left Rutherglen residents in a state of anxiety, unable to cross the border for work and breaking up families.  

Jade Brown co-owns Corowa’s Green Bean Café with her parents. While Ms Brown lives in Corowa, her parents live in Rutherglen, leaving her to run the café without them. 

“My parents are stuck in Rutherglen and so is our chef. Because we are three staff members down, we made the difficult decision to close two days a week,” Ms Brown told The Free Press.  

Ms Brown believes a work permit should be included in the exemption category for people who live outside the border permit zone. 

“We are struggling to get staff. The whole situation is incredibly frustrating. It is very tiring trying to work out what to do,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rutherglen resident Katie Massari of Poppy Emporium in Corowa, crossed the NSW border before the new restrictions were implemented to keep her florist business operating.  

“I live in Rutherglen and my shop is here in Corowa. I cannot get a permit to cross the border, so I went and spoke to the police because there was no one else to talk to. The police suggested that I just stay in Corowa, so that’s what I have been doing,” Ms Massari said.

The decision to stay in Corowa came at a price for Ms Massari who had to leave her two daughters at home in Rutherglen with her husband. 

“We got a permit for the girls to come over on the weekend thankfully. It is really hard though and I don’t know how much longer I can do this for. It’s upsetting our family life and I just want to go home,” she said. 

For the time being, Ms Massari plans to stay in Corowa and keep her business open.

“I am lucky that the shop has been doing ok. The support Corowa gives me is just amazing.  Especially when no one really knows what is going on. 

“I just cannot understand why they didn’t add Rutherglen to the zone. Corowa, Rutherglen and Wahgunyah- we are all one big community.”

Late last week, Federal Member for Indi, Helen Haines expressed her disappointment with the NSW government’s sudden decision to further restrict entry into the state. 

“I feel so much for so many of you in our North East communities who are challenged, confused and frustrated by the tightened cross-border restrictions,” Ms Haines said.

“At a time when we should be working together to contain COVID-19, the NSW Government has taken unilateral action to restrict entry to NSW. It’s deeply worrying. There must be a better way. That’s why I’m pressing NSW authorities to introduce a practical permit so people can get to work.”