COVID-19 has confronted us, confronted our world, during 2020.
As the coronavirus situation deteriorated in Victoria throughout June, concern of being confronted with a border closure unfortunately turned to reality.
When I got the message from the Premier of NSW Gladys Berijiklian that there would be a border closure between NSW and Victoria from July 8, my first response was dread.
This was going to hurt our community.
Did we really have to take this step?
Was COVID-19 so dangerous that for the first time in a century NSW would close a border?
As we look around the world, and even within areas of Australia where the virus has taken off, the answer now is clear.
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To this point in time, we as a nation, have been protected from the worst.
The NSW Budget, handed down by the Treasurer Dominic Perrottet this week, grapples with the economic cost of the pandemic to NSW, now and into the future.
But there have been impacts on the border which cannot be measured in monetary terms.
Extraordinary times can throw fresh perspectives.
There are things about the border closure where I have learned something valuable about our community.
First and foremost we are a community that works well together when faced by a serious challenge.
Of course we all knew this already.
We are a region which lives each year under the threat of bushfires or drought or both.
Fighting a virus is perhaps new here, but I am very proud of the way local people gritted their teeth and went into isolation when required.
You did not have to be badgered to do the right thing.
You have been brilliant.
Frankly, we all want to help keep each other safe and are prepared to act on this.
Also, our community is more deeply connected across the border.
We shared more than ever as locals than we could have imagined.
Yes, we live as one community, but the layers of connection spread out into where we educate our children, how we involve family and service providers in childcare arrangements.
Why we get our hair cut on the opposite side of the border, where we love to get coffee.
The friends our children make through sporting competitions, where our job takes us, where our partner lives.
Agriculture and construction workers might live here, but so many are travelling great distances for their work, sometimes across multiple states.
This emerged strongly from the requests to my office for assistance with border permits and isolation exemptions.
What is daily life became one of the defining questions of the border closure and restrictionsJustin Clancy
What is 'daily life' became one of the defining questions of the border closure and restrictions.
From attending surgery in Melbourne to caring for an elderly relative or being at the bedside of a family member at their passing.
Often these intimate parts of our lives had to be shared with authorities in order to advance urgent permits.
We have worked hard to get people where they need to be in time. Not always successfully, I acknowledge with sadness.
As the border re-opens, I would like to thank Superintendent Paul Smith for the magnificent work of NSW police and the Australian Defence Force.
They exemplified calm professionalism in all weather and under constantly changing rules.
Thank you to our nurses, doctors and all the staff at Albury Wodonga Health and Murrumbidgee Local Health District for putting themselves at risk to provide the best testing and health guidance.
Thank you to all our frontline agencies, our teachers, education staff, ServiceNSW and so many others who played their roles and accepted risk in keeping services open.
My appreciation also to councils and the other local members on both sides of the border.
In particular I wish to acknowledge member for Benambra Bill Tilley for his tireless work and support for both myself and our community.
And most importantly, I thank this unique border community for digging deep at times to ensure we kept protecting our families, friends and community.
We have all been through so much as a result of the closure.
I have spoken frequently of the hurts and trauma, but yet now as the border is lifted we can also speak of the accomplishment of our community.
From midnight Sunday, November 23, let's enjoy the removal of the border barrier as we reunite with friends and family once more.
A date which will remain etched in our memories for a very long time.