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A first hand account of Border Mayhem

The Beagle Editor, I would like to share with your readers a personal account of my particularly hostile and unfriendly treatment when travelling to Kununurra in WA for a work contract with KAMS ( Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Services ).

Beginning of August 2020, I contacted the nursing agency Dialysaid asking if there is any work.

Dialysaid, offers a position in the dialysis unit in Kununurra .

The Kununurra dialysis unit if one of four units run by KAMS (Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Services).

The position is for 12 weeks, with an option to extend.

I accept the position in Kununurra and sign a contract with KAMS on 19/08/20.

I consent to spending two weeks, unpaid, in quarantine in Kununurra.

I commence organizing flights and accommodation.

Due to the current COVID19 pandemic a Permit is required to travel through SA and another permit to enter WA. Both of which I request on-line.

The SA permit is not completed, but I am given an ET number that I am told will suffice and a statement that the permit is deemed “essential “ to Pass through SA.

For the WA permit, the G2G permit, I am rung personally by a member of the WA police , granting me the permit to go to WA.

He e-mails the permit to me thereafter, and I print out on 19/08/’20.

On it, it is clearly stated what my Quarantine address will be for the first two weeks in WA.

I live in NSW on the South Coast. My address clearly stated on the application form.

For me it is only a 2 hour drive to get to the airport in Canberra, hence my reason for flying out to Adelaide from that airport and not from Sydney.

Moruya Canberra 170 km. Moruya Sydney 301 km.

My travel itinerary was:

Fly out on Thursday 20th August

Canberra to Adelaide

Overnight stay in hotel in Adelaide

Next day ( Friday 21st August, flight Adelaide to Darwin

A connecting flight on the same day from Darwin to Kununurra. Two weeks quarantine in Unit 1/15 Erythrine Steet in Kununurra. Commence work on Monday 7th September at the Dialysis Unit in Kununurra.

On arrival in Darwin at 10:45 I had an approximate 3 ½ hour window to wait for my connecting flight to Kununurra flying out at 14:50 that afternoon.

On seeing my G2G pass on arrival in Darwin, I was told I was free to see the sights of Darwin and come back later for my flight onwards. No restrictions, no mask; I was free to leave. So I was told by the border official on arrival in Darwin.

I did not go anywhere, but waited at the airport for my connecting flight.

On arrival in Kununurra , the one other passenger and I, only two passengers on that flight out, were both ushered to an office in the airport terminal.

Police officers were waiting there to process our entry into WA.

The young lady came only from Darwin and could proceed to her quarantine address.

I was told however that the G2G pass was not the only documentation required to entre WA. I was not informed as to what that other document was.

The exchange here and now in the office was hostile and unfriendly. This all took quite some time. I was forbidden to use the toilet .

As I had been told by the COVID 19 travel information line, I only needed the G2G form, I was confused as to what that police officer was talking about.

Acquiring the G2G form and approval thereof had been fast tracked as the dialysis unit in Kununurra wanted to have me start sooner rather than later.

After I had applied for the permit whilst still at home , I was rung personally by a member of the Police Force in WA to let me know that my application had been successful and I was permitted to travel to WA. I do not recall that officers’ name. I then brought out the document that he e-mailed me.

Following the statement that I needed further documentation for entry, I was ordered back on the plane to leave asap. The plane on which I had arrived was still on the tarmac, waiting for passengers to board from the Kununurra terminal to fly on to Broome.

There followed a long 1 hour or 1 ½ hour period of time in which there seemed discussions between different authorities. Could the flight to Broome be cancelled and the passengers left stranded. Could the flight leave with just me, to fly back to Darwin. It was about overtime for the flight staff. Discussions that I was unaware of and was only updated on occasionally by one of the flight attendants.

In the end I was told to “get off the plane” . There was a cleaning van on the tarmac with people in cleaning gear. I had to go back to the office in the terminal. The police officer who seemed to be in charge of this debacle then waved a piece of paper at me and ( I would say gleefully ) told me that I had lied on my application to acquire the G2G pass. Had I not ticked the box “ no” to the question; Have you visited NSW in the past 14 days ?? I had indeed ticked “no “ to that question. I LIVE in NSW . Not being of English origin I immediately questioned my understanding of the word “visit”. There was no room or option or invitation for discussion or explanation. All this again in a very hostile and unfriendly fashion. It was an immediate; “you have committed a criminal offence, you will be fined”. I was to get out of the state on the first plane out . This was going to be a flight on Sunday. In the meantime I had to go to a hotel at my own cost and remain there. Not leave my room and have a COVID test. I was told there would be food provided with this room. I was put in the back of a paddy wagon with my luggage in ushered into the hotel room after I had to present my debit card.

As I had to have a COVID test AND was not allowed to leave my room, I rang the hospital to ask if they did the testing and if someone would come and do this at my hotel. They could do the test in the ED department. They did not provide a mobile service. I rang the only number I ,by chance, had of the police officer handling this, enquiring how I was to have the test and not leave my room. It was fine for me to go to the hospital, he said. I could just walk there. It’s not far, he said.

As it was midday and 38 C degrees outside I decided to wait for the end of the afternoon to walk there. Shortly after I had made this call I was rung again and informed that a police van would pick me up and take me to the hospital. Again I was ushered into the back of the paddy wagon and transported to the hospital. I had the COVID test. I was told that the result would be available that day. Back to the hotel in the back of the paddy wagon.

I was rung with the results of the test. A short “you are negative” , was the message.

At no time at all was I rung by anyone to enquire if I was OK. There had been no meals included in that price for the hotel. They did not do room service. At an extra cost of $65.- a day, they could organize some food be brought to my room. I declined.

I took the time to look up this word “ visit”. In the Cambridge English Dictionary I find the correct meaning. One either visits a place or a person. One visits a Place “in order to look at it”. I can safely conclude that I did indeed NOT visit NSW !!

I had been rung to inform me that the police van would pick me up on Sunday afternoon to take me to the airport, in order to fly out.

Again a ride in the back of the paddy wagon

On arrival at the Kununurra airport I was again ushered to the same office, awaiting boarding. 8 Minutes before I was to board, as message came to the officers that were “minding” me, that the pilot was not prepared to take me. The plane was too full.

One of the police officers minding me was a lady who moved heaven and earth and get me on the plane in order to fly out. There were after all only 5 people on the plane. Departure time was extended by another good hour as the pilot decided to refuel the plane first.

On arrival in Darwin airport there was again paperwork to be filled in. A question was posed again pertaining to NSW. This time I answered “yes “. Yes I had visited NSW in the last 14 days. The young lady at the border patrol counter looked at the form. She then asked where I had been in NSW. I stated that I lived there, my address filled in few lines further along. She then picked up her phone to look up where exactly this Moruya, where I live , is situated. She found it in the end. Oh, she said. Nowhere near Sydney. Please continue and enjoy your stay !!. This was the first person on border patrol who was, friendly, who took some own initiative, who thought for herself. A very refreshing experience. If I knew her name I would commend her here.

After flying out of Darwin on Tuesday morning I arrived in Adelaide. On arrival all passengers had to fill in an entry permit on their phone. I filled in on the form that I was “passing through “. I had a flight out of Adelaide to Sydney first thing the next morning. The question: where had I been in the past 14 days? I filled in NSW, ACT. NT. WA. and SA. Again the NSW answer caused the usual hostility. The response that I LIVE in NSW, as one can see further on the form, is NOT the correct answer. I am told I need to have a COVID test, need to self isolate, can not leave my hotel room and need to wear a mask at all times. I explain that I have had a COVID test 2 days ago. The result had been negative. I was then asked to prove that. I could not. As I had merely had a short phone message stating that I was negative. Well then, I need to have one again. “Have a COVID test AND do not leave your hotel room.” I stated that I did not see it necessary to have a test again. “ You will be fined” is then called out to me. Again these exchanges are in the vain of great hostility. I am again , first and foremost, treated like a criminal.

I went to my hotel. Did not leave the room. Went without food again. ( 5 days without dinner) and flew out the next morning.

This is the chronological order in which this highly traumatic experience played out.

I have now lost a perfectly good 3 month work contract, for which I was prepared to forgo 2 weeks pay to be in self quarantine. I had the prospect of extending this contract if I so desired. I had the opportunity to gain some valuable experience working in an aboriginal area. I was keen to expand my skills and knowledge in both the field of dialysis and of remote nursing. Marijke van der Heijde


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