FRIDAY’s ‘hard’ border closure will see hundreds of Victorians and South Australians locked out of work, education, health and other essential services, with no viable solution in sight for some.
In addition to the weekend’s announcement of extension of Victoria’s State of Disaster, the story of one Victorian family, living just nine kilometres from the SA border, is one that’s becoming all too familiar under Covid-19 law.
Peter and Jamie McKinnon, children Jessie, 18, who works on the family farm and sisters Ella, 17 and Lilly, 14, reside on a property at Strathdownie.
In addition to their home property, the family is the second and third generation to farm property at Mt Schank in South Australia.
Despite having all of their health care records, education history and a farming property in SA, Jamie’s application to access South Australia has been rejected, Ella’s was accepted - with conditions - and the SA Police (SAPol) application website crashed before Peter’s application could be processed.
They are yet to attempt to apply for a cross-border pass for Lilly.
But the problems do not end there.
The bus that picks the girls up for school every day, stops just over four kilometres inside the South Australian border and about 800 metres inside the border checkpoint.
As of Friday morning, only the girls will be able to cross the border checkpoint and only then if they have had a Covid-19 test within the seven days prior – something else their mother cannot help them access in South Australia.
“They’re both does SACE (Year 11 and 12) subjects, so we’ve been told they’re allowed to go to school in South Australia,” Mrs McKinnon said.
“I was told last night by the SAPol registrar that as of midnight, Thursday, no parent would have permission to come across the border to take students to school and the kids can only go over if they have the weekly testing,” Jamie said.
“Ella’s application was purely for school, mine was to do the school bus run and to check the farm and my application had been denied, because we weren’t allowed to go through a populated area (of SA) to get to the farm.”
‘The farm’ is a block of land at Mount Schank, that has been in the McKinnon family for several generations.
Around 100 head of cattle are run on the property, with fences, feed and solar powered pumps controlling the water supply requiring regular monitoring.
While a potential option is available for friends across the border to check the property, the McKinnons are concerned about imposing on someone fore an indefinite period and the things that could be missed by someone who does not know the property.
“The fences need to be checked, the feed’s okay for now, but we have to check the water supply a lot, because it runs on solar pumps and there’s not always a lot of sunshine over that way,” Mrs McKinnon said.
She said the family had not sought to take advantage of the system, with the decision made not to apply for a cross-border pass for Jessie, as it was unnecessary.
“We weren’t going to worry about Jessie, as we had other people in the family who could go across (the border) to do what we had to do … but now my brother-in-law’s application has been denied, we have another br-ther-in-law, Chris, who has a business in Mount Gambier that he can’t get to,” she said.
“It doesn’t look like any of us are going to be approved to go over and with Ella’s application, how is she going to get to school, keep up with the testing, when she doesn’t have a licence .. she’s only on her L-plates and can’t drive?”
The McKinnons are not the only Strathdownie family left high and dry by the border closure.
Mrs McKinnon said discussions with neighbours had revealed similar issues with the management of livestock on SA land and simple services like mail, which were delivered to post office boxes in Mount Gambier, would become inaccessible on Friday.
“One farmer I was talk to was told to relocate his stock to Victoria … if he had the space in Victoria, I am sure he wouldn’t be agisting land in South Australia,” she said.
“We’ve als0 been told that we’re not allowed to have people in South Australia bring things to us at the border, so a girlfriend who has all her mail delivered to the Mount Gambier post office, can’t have someone collect it and bring it to her, it all has to be redirected.”
At this stage, the only advice the SAPol registrar has for cross-border families, is “try again”.
“We were told to wait until the changes come in on Friday and try again then, but there’s no guarantee,” Mrs McKinnon said.