Helen Haines has welcomed a decision by NSW Health to allow Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service staff to go to work.

The Independent Federal Member for Indi said four employees – including two maternal and child health nurses – lived beyond the designated ‘border zone’ in Yackandandah and Beechworth.

“The only NSW border permit they could get to enable them to maintain the vital service they provide for Indigenous families would have required them to fly to Sydney and quarantine for 14 days,” Dr Haines said.

“When I became aware of this, I raised it with NSW Cross-Border Commissioner James McTavish on August 15 and my office has since worked with him to secure exemptions for the staff from the NSW Minister for Health.

“The nurses provide services to new mothers, new-born babies and children, and conduct general welfare checks on entire families, including an immunisation program.

“With other services cancelled because of COVID-19, these critical staff have sometimes been a family’s only connection to support services.

“The complex and frustrating border permit system meant they could not attend work, just as it has affected others providing health services.

“This meant some of the most vulnerable babies, children and families in our community were left without health support.”

Dr Haines said the exemption was granted late last week (August 20).

“But the exemption is only current until this coming Friday – August 28,” she said.

“This is only a temporary reprieve.

“How many times do we have to keep telling the same stories to government? The need in our community doesn’t change. We wait for action from National Cabinet or from the NSW Government, and again and again we get nothing.

“A longer-term solution is desperately needed.”

[August 23, 2020]

Image: Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Heath Service

Sign up

Keep up to date with the latest news and information