Border communities bear brunt of closures

Photo by David Gray/Getty Images

Photo by David Gray/Getty Images

It's not the first time, but it will hopefully be the last that our domestic borders have been closed. As someone who lives in a cross-border twin town, I am experiencing the frustration, and stress, first-hand.

Despite feeling resilient and confident in my ability to face challenges while awake, I'm dreaming about being stuck on one side of the border, separated from my family: it's definitely taking a toll.

In the beginning of this pandemic, there was a large focus on COVID-19 being a health crisis and not an economic one, and how we need to suck up the financial losses to prevent the spread.

However, four months down the track and with unemployment soaring to 7.4 per cent, JobKeeper and JobSeeker set to drop in September, and with us standing on the cusp of yet another youth unemployment crisis, I think we can all safely say that the impact of COVID-19 is a complex one that encapsulates health, mental health, economic, community and structural concerns.

From a career perspective, living on the border has often been a frustrating place to live. If you didn't want to cut your job prospects in half by only looking for work on one side of the border, and you are a tradie or a real estate agent, you need licences for both states.

If you work in hospitality, you require NSW and Victorian certifications in RSA and RCG, and jobs requiring working with children checks also need them done in both states, and so on.

Recertification and renewals are time consuming and costly, all because our community is cut in half.

I'm sure anyone who has worked for the councils will tell you of the pure frustration of trying to attract state funding for projects like the Cancer Hospital.

Albury Wodonga Health has pioneered cross-border connectivity and pooling of resources to best service our community, but they too have faced their fair share of frustration in trying to make it work.

Further dividing us now through the border closure, we are seeing families and partners being separated, concern over access to healthcare (especially for pregnant women and cancer patients), job losses, and businesses closing - both temporarily and for good. Our tensions here on the border feel like they are at an all-time high.

People I have worked with have lost shifts because of an inability to get to Albury at the drop of a hat due to the gridlock at the checkpoints. People who live just outside the border bubble are unable to get to work, or school, and thus face economic and academic losses.

We've seen businesses just metres inside the border boundary close because their workers can't get to and from work.

I am often asked about whether a person can interview for jobs outside of the border bubble and if they get the job, whether they can actually accept it if they'd planned to commute. I live on one side and work on the other so I share in this frustration. It all feels a lot like chaos.

I don't envy the politicians in power at the moment trying to juggle these complex elements and minimise the damage while trying to flatten the curve, again.

What's more, it seems that they can't do anything right - no matter what they do, there will always be a group of people who think they made the wrong call.

But that's the job.

The state politicians need to listen to our experiences on the frontlines to ensure that balls aren't dropped in the juggling act.

Wodonga Mayor, Anna Speedie, and Albury Mayor, Kevin Mack, indicated that communication at the moment is a one-way street and this lack of contact from our state premiers is indicative of a continuation of the border struggles our local leaders have always battled.

Ms Speedie highlighted the disparity in our restrictions here compared to the freedom of movement for Sydneysiders when there have been outbreaks in Sydney and we have zero cases here - they can travel for recreation and we can't get to work.

... there have been outbreaks in Sydney and we have zero cases here - they can travel for recreation and we can't get to work.

I fail to see how we can be blamed for our own unemployment, and suffer the drop in welfare support coming in September when it is the government restricting our ability to both keep and find work.

The economic fallout can also cost lives as poverty levels grow. Something's got to give.

This story Border communities bear brunt of closures first appeared on The Canberra Times.