Australia WA border opening delay disrupts travel plans for thousands and leaves some homeless interstate

07:35  21 january  2022
07:35  21 january  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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Molly Richter was all set for her new life with her fiance in Western Australia.

Now, an 11th-hour decision by Western Australia to keep its border closed has left her stranded in Sydney with just a suitcase and no home.

The decision has created chaos for tens of thousands of people who were expected to arrive in WA from February 5 onwards.

American woman Ms Richter, 43, fell in love with her fiance Paul Woolerton six years ago.

They have sustained a relationship across international borders, visiting each other and staying in touch constantly online.

In 2017, Mr Woolerton proposed to her on Rockingham Beach in Perth's south, and she was booked to leave for Australia back in July 2020.

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A year and a half later, she has only now been able to get a flight into Australia, and she could only go via Sydney. An earlier direct flight to Perth was cancelled back in October.

Australia has only recently opened its international borders, but Mr Woolerton's home state of WA stayed resolutely closed to the rest of the country and world.

Premier Mark McGowan had set an opening date of February 5, but last night he announced that had been suspended indefinitely.

"I've sold my car, I've broken my apartment lease, I quit my job," Ms Richter said.

"Everything I own is either in my house with my partner in Perth, or in this room and my suitcases with me, and on February 5 by booking here at this rental unit ends.

"Where am I supposed to go? I don't know anybody in Sydney."

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Plea for government to show leniency

Ms Woolerton, who flew to Sydney from her home state of Colorado, said she had tried to obtain an exemption with a G2G pass, but the app the WA government uses to approve entry to the state for essential workers or on compassionate grounds had not been updated.

Mr McGowan said last night there would be exemptions for "returning West Australians with strong recent connections or direct legitimate family connections in WA".

While Ms Richter's visa into Australia has been approved, she does not know if the WA government will recognise it as confirmation of the legitimacy of her relationship with her fiance.

She is pleading with the government to show leniency.

"I followed the instructions, I waited until the promised date and I based everything on the promise," she said.

"My partner is working in Perth and providing the income for the one house we have there, and it's not sustainable for us financially or mentally for me to be stuck in Sydney.

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"I have nothing and no-one in Sydney."

Family sells house to come home

Pam Nicholas and her husband had been planning on moving from Seaford in Victoria to WA.

She moved east five years ago to live with one of her daughters, but before that had spent 30 years in Western Australia.

"We've been wanting to go back to WA for a while, and when we heard that the border was reopening we pushed forward with the sale of our house. We've sold our house, we bought a house unseen in Mandurah," she told ABC News Breakfast.

"I'm in a room full of boxes and bubble wrap.

"We're ready to go, the cat's been sorted out, the flight and her cattery and injections all done."

Ms Nicholas said she and her husband had both received booster doses and had been as cautious as possible.

But she said it was unclear at this stage whether they would be covered by the new expanded exemptions.

"We don't know … it's this uncertainty," she said.

"I think Mark McGowan's done a fabulous job in WA protecting people, but it's Omicron."

People should be angry: Opposition

WA Opposition Leader Mia Davies said the Premier had "squandered the gift of time".

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"We've had two years to prepare for this, and the government knew full well that they had to invest in our health system," she said.

"There will be a lot of people that feel betrayed, there will also be a lot of people feeling relieved.

"That relief should probably then be followed by anger because we have had a lot of time to prepare, and I think it's an admission that the government has not used that time appropriately."

Ms Davies said the lack of clarity with an indefinite date for reopening meant people were left in the dark.

"What we didn't hear was what the plan is now, and so we've been left in this state of flux where we have no new date, we've got no idea what businesses will need to do and the community will need to do, even though we've got Omicron in the community," she said.

WA recorded five new cases of COVID yesterday.

COVID has not circulated through the WA community for much of the pandemic, but recent small outbreaks have occurred.

[Zendesk COVID form embed]

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This is interesting!