Life over the border

I wrote this opinion piece for the Dubbo Photo News on August 13, 2020

Life over the border

It’s not unusual in this day and age to have family all over the place.

I’ve got cousins living everywhere from Dubbo, to New Zealand, to the UAE. I spent more than a year living in London while I was in my 20s.

And yet, I’ve never felt quite so far from home as I do now.

I live in Brisbane with my husband and two children, while my parents are across the NSW border in my home town of Tamworth. My eldest brother and his family are there too, with another brother and his family in Sydney.

I wasn’t surprised when the borders between NSW and Queensland were closed earlier this year, and I wasn’t surprised when Premier Annastacia Palaszckuk decided to close them again this weekend.

I’ve supported her decision both times – COVID-19 is something we’re all learning to cope with this year, and keeping people safe has to be the top priority.

When the borders were closed the first time, there were howls from protest, from the Prime Minister’s office down. I watched as the Queensland Opposition Leader, tourism operators and a lot of media outlets constantly banged the “reopen the borders” drum. “It’s good for business! We need people to come to Queensland!” And so cautiously, the state was reopened.

But after seeing what’s happening in Victoria, and seeing the knife edge Sydney is balanced on, was it really worth it? Did tourists really think it worth the hours-long queue at the border?

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to escape a southern winter and come to Queensland.

I grew up with southern winters. And now, when I’m harvesting tomatoes in my Brisbane garden in July, I look back to those chilly days at university in Armidale and think, “this is the life”.

And yet, I can’t go “home”. My parents have missed both my boys’ birthdays this year and phone calls just aren’t enough. Technology is not my parents’ strong point, so FaceTime is out of the question. We’ve sent parcels to and fro, but there’s nothing better than a hug from Dad, or a cuddle from Nana while you bake apple pies together. There’s a lot you can miss in one year – my eldest child is now as tall as I am, and my youngest has started playing a musical instrument for the first time. All this and more, my parents have missed seeing in this crazy year.

Generally speaking, we love living in Brisbane.

It’s big enough for all the big city perks like museums, art galleries, concerts and sporting events. Small enough that it doesn’t take five hours to cross the city; close to the coast for a weekend beach trip. We have a beautiful community of friends we’ve built up here, our own little “village”.

Sure, the summer humidity is a shocker and things get a little tense around State of Origin time, but we love it. Our life is here, our kids lives are here and until this nasty pandemic snuck up on the world, I hadn’t ever contemplated going “home” for good.

But now, separated from ageing parents and having to watch from afar as all the responsibility falls on the shoulders of my eldest sibling, I wonder … was it the right thing to do? I never thought moving one state away would be “too far” but this year, it’s been way too far.

Premier Palaszckuk has said she’ll review the border closure at the end of August, but she’s making no promises as to when it will reopen.

So to all my family and friends in the southern states, I’d like to ask this. Please, stay home if you can; wear a mask if you’re asked to. Wash your hands and keep your distance.

If everyone does the right thing now, maybe, just maybe, I might be able to go home for Christmas. I might be able to enjoy a beer with my brothers, and my kids could hug their grandparents and their aunts and uncles.

Stay safe everyone and don’t worry, Queensland will still be here when it’s all over. I’ll wave to you as you head north on your holiday; I’ll be the one driving south to be with my family.

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