Uproar on the border as Victorians locked out of South Australia

Premier Daniel Andrews will take the latest plight of border communities to the national cabinet on Friday as South Australia shut almost all Victorians out of the state, causing cries of outrage from farmers, business owners, families and workers.

The decision by the South Australian government to impose a “hard border” from midnight Thursday in effect traps many Victorians who live in remote communities but who normally work, shop and do business in South Australia.

Farmer Paula Gust.

Apsley farmer Paula Gust declared herself furious at what she saw as the inability of the two state governments to find a workable solution to the problems facing her family and thousands of others living on the border.

“If I jump our western paddock fence, I am in South Australia,” she said, speaking from her family’s farm.

“Our daughter goes to school in Naracoorte, in South Australia.

“We have always done all of our shopping, medical appointments, dental, chiropractor, farm supplies, banking, work – everything – in South Australia.

“But now none of us can go across to South Australia and my daughter cannot go to school because she is in year 9, even though she has been tested for COVID-19 every week.

“It feels as if the decision makers in Adelaide think we live in Melbourne and the Melbourne people don’t know we exist.”

Police check a truck driver’s permit on the Victoria-South Australia border last month. Credit:Tony Wright

A new “Cross Border Call Out” Facebook page attracted more than 3000 followers by Thursday.

It carried reports about medical staff fearing for the health of patients who could no longer cross the border, South Australian-based veterinarians warning that Victorian farmers could lose stock and small business operators fearing they would lose staff.

Amid the uproar, the South Australian government faced accusations of hypocrisy after it announced it would be the first state in Australia to welcome back foreign students.

About 300 foreign students are scheduled to arrive in Adelaide next month. They will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

However, the only exemptions for Victorians are year 11 and 12 students who attend South Australian schools, farmers whose properties straddle the border, patients requiring life-saving medical treatment and truck-drivers hauling essential freight. They must have a COVID-19 test every seven days.

Mr Andrews said he wanted to reassure border communities “that we're doing everything we can to try and make the fact that others have closed their borders to us as workable as possible”.

"It's not easy, by any stretch,” he said.

"Whenever borders are closed, there's going to be impacts. That's the nature of closing the border. But that is on the agenda for national cabinet tomorrow.

“Hopefully we'll have some progress. I've had some discussions with the Premier of New South Wales. If I need to have a discussion with the Premier of South Australia, of course I will do that."

The latest problems along the South Australian border echo widely reported difficulties experienced by residents of NSW and Victorian communities since NSW closed its border along the Murray River.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was assailed with stories of hardship when he visited Albury on Thursday. He said he would like the border restrictions lifted completely by Christmas.

Naracoorte Community News journalist Eliza Berlage.

Among those caught by the new South Australian law is journalist Eliza Berlage.

Her life was upended in April when the Horsham-based newspaper that employed her temporarily suspended publication because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Berlage has since gained work on a newly established paper in South Australia, the Naracoorte Community News.

But her application to be allowed to move across the border to the town of her employment has been declined, leaving her and her partner stranded in Victoria.

“We’ve lined up a rental property, and I’ve got a job, but we can’t move,” she said. “I’ve lodged an appeal [with the South Australian authorities], but I have no idea what will happen.

“There are stories like mine all the way along the border.”

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