Our community deserves better
The declarations of support for regional Australia made by successive federal and state governments have been revealed, yet again, to be hollow and without basis.
The most recent developments in COVID-19 strategies shows how little some people in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra have moved since the age of multiple rail gauges. To put it bluntly, the NSW, Victorian and federal governments appear to have scant knowledge of regional Australia and are unwilling to learn.
I, along with over 100,000-plus others, live in the Albury-Wodonga region. It is a single community that tries to ignore the headache of colonial era borders as much as it can. The 'bubble' put in place last week by city-based politicians and bureaucrats with their eyes glued to google maps is a travesty. The 'bubble' is designed without any thought as to how our community works and the distances we, in regional Australia, often travel between work and home. Senior state and federal politicians and their agents have shown a contempt for us and our regional community that is truly mind-numbing. The recent events highlight the fact that Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra have no idea of the situation on the border and are not prepared to seek local knowledge and input into the decisions they are taking. They have failed to engage with people at grass roots level, including our local MPs and local governments that fully understand our unique position and who could assist in providing workable solutions to these sorts of issues.
Albury Wodonga Health is the largest cross-border health system in Australia. You have a baby in Wodonga and get first class cancer treatment in Albury. Since the start of the year we have had some instances of COVID-19 but currently have zero active cases. For the past two weeks we were under a border plan that saw no COVID-19 outbreaks. Now, a nurse living in Yackandandah or Beechworth is unable to go to work at Albury hospital. My Aunt, hospitalised in Wangaratta, cannot be visited by her daughter living in Corowa while working in Rutherglen.
Every family here on the border have tales of woe and enforced stupidity. My nephew's wife can't go to work at Beechworth Prison because she is supposed to self-isolate for seven days after a shift. My uncle can't visit his farm because he lives in Thurgoona and his farm is over 50 kilometres away. I can't visit my 94 year old friend who lives on his own because he is in Chiltern, 40 kms away in Victoria.
The new arrangements make no sense and it is impossible not to be highly cynical about the motives for this change. To suggest that the change was needed to save lives is abject nonsense on any rational front and has clearly been put into place as a desk-top job by Sydney/Melbourne based politicians or bureaucrats. Where was the consultation with local community reps to address any perceived problems?
I implore the governments involved to try and inject some common sense into this issue. Our community deserves better.
Timothy Clements, Lavington
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