Queenslanders who have been homeless for months prepare to cross the border

Some are here because they couldn’t afford the hotel quarantine. Others, assuming only weeks of camping, couldn’t leave vehicles, belongings and pets behind.

Mrs Hovington cannot fly because of the tumor in her brain.

“Trust me, I would have gone into quarantine without a problem,” she said.

The 54-year-old non-practicing doctor, who also has a doctorate in criminal psychology, says she has tried three times to get a medical exemption through Queensland Health to return to Eight Mile Plains, where she still pays 380 $ per week rent, but never heard.

She says she also wrote 27 times to Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“Palaszczuk doesn’t care,” she said. “She does not care.”

“I paid for my funeral in Queensland. What if I die here? My family would have to pay to take me to Queensland. I even got in touch with White Lady [funeral directors] and they said it was about $ 8,000.

“I said, ‘Do I need a border pass? “”

From Pottsville in New South Wales, Meredith Llewellyn and her husband David raised money to help stranded people buy diapers, medicine, fuel, car registrations, housing and pay the rent on their homes voids in Queensland.

Retirees do not have a direct skin in the game, she says, but have stepped in to fill the void left by the Queensland government, which does not publicly recognize those on lockdown unless pressed by them. journalists.

A COVID testing station in Murwillumbah.Credit:Zach Hope

“These are people who work here or to see dying loved ones,” Ms. Llewellyn said. “These are people who spend the last few minutes at someone’s bedside. There are people here who have come down for medical reasons.

“These people … were redeemed, held as sacrificial lambs, for the mantra of keeping Queensland safe.”

Behind the inevitable images of this week’s joyous reunion and various iterations of “We Did It, Queensland,” lurks a trail of shattered lives, she says.

“The story that needs to be told is the depth of the trauma they went through. And the fact that when they return home, they come home without a job and they go home financially deprived.

Chantelle Spinks and Wendy, who have requested that her last name not be printed, consider each other family, although they did not meet until early last month.

Wendy, from Townsville, and Ms Spinks, who lived at Albion Park Rail, south of Wollongong, were reunited at Murwillumbah Showgrounds, their mutual last resort after months of roaming.

“When Chantelle came in I saw how bad she was, so I went into help mode,” says Wendy.

“I had been there. You arrive at the Showgrounds and you are just empty. I couldn’t string two words together. I don’t know how I drove here.

Chantelle Spinks (right) and Wendy, with dogs Teddy and Rocky, inside a shed at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds.

Chantelle Spinks (right) and Wendy, with dogs Teddy and Rocky, inside a shed at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds. Credit:Zach Hope

Ms Spinks left Albion Park Rail with her husband, three children, three dogs and a cat after being sexually assaulted in late July. They drifted north to friends at Hervey Bay – their only support – in hopes that the Queensland border would reopen soon.

They camped in a national park for weeks, trekking nine kilometers to reception so the kids could continue online school.

On two occasions, their equipment was destroyed by the floods. Another time the camp was blown to the ground.

She repeats throughout this interview at the Murwillumbah Showgrounds, where she arrived with the help of Mrs. Llewellyn, she is numb, empty, finished.


Her husband’s mental health deteriorated. Two vacancies as a chef in Queensland have lapsed. The children were unable to attend the online classes because such things no longer exist.

“Keeping the Queenslanders safe?” She asks, referring to Ms Palaszczuk’s reply to criticism of the hard border position.

“What about the people who are waiting? What about the people sitting here? Are we also people? She is going to want the glory of opening the borders. But she separated families. She destroyed my family.

“I don’t know how I’m never going to find my husband, but where he is from… I don’t know if I will ever find myself.”


Wendy, a former payroll and human resources professional, bristles when friends tell her the Prime Minister and Queensland health officials have only protected voters.

“There are people here who have been broken,” says Wendy.

The two women are recovering with the support of the Showgrounds family and the community of Murwillumbah. Foreigners from the city deliver money and goods. Religious groups bring food. A Queensland woman, unable to intervene, sent $ 3,000.

Meg Fallon, the shy Showgrounds caretaker, who, under Ms Llewellyn’s guidance, has helped around 20 former Murwillumbah campers through Queensland Health’s infamous exemption process and across the border.

“It was a hell of a job. But it’s more difficult for these people, ”Ms. Fallon said, waving an arm towards the tents and caravans.

“All of their houses are there in Queensland and they still pay them. They lost their jobs. [Ms Palaszczuk’s] A shame. Everyone should send their bills to the government.

On Sunday, Ms. Fallon and community supporters will meet one last time for a farewell party.

The talk at Showgrounds on Saturday morning is about the Queensland border pass. Word filtered through the application form will only be available online a few hours before the border reopens.

How long will it take to approve, they wonder. Do we need to stay longer? Do the passes have to be printed?

Ms Hovington says someone on the Queensland government hotline thinks the forms should be posted on the dashboard.

Wendy went to local Harvey Norman to ask for the cheapest printer. Instead, the store donated it and filled it with ink.

Among those hoping to hit Queensland at 1 a.m. are friends Shay Holmes and John Payne, who arrived at Newcastle Showgrounds on Friday unable to afford a second night in a hotel.

Shay, who lives with her mother, father and grandfather in Logan, entered New South Wales for friends’ weddings days before the border closed. Mr. Payne has since hosted him at his home.

Friends John Payne and Shay Holmes hope to cross Queensland at 1 a.m.

Friends John Payne and Shay Holmes hope to cross Queensland at 1 a.m. Credit:Zach Hope

“They said I could fly and I had to quarantine… [but] I really didn’t have the money, ”says Holmes, who has a disability pension and has never been so far from her mother.

“We have been facetiming everyday. But it has been a really difficult and stony road. I like living with my mother. She is my best friend. Ditto with my father.

Wendy from Townsville was arrested in Canberra, where she was dealing with a family situation, when borders closed at 1 a.m. on July 23.

Even though she had heard – or had the luxury of listening – the warning from then-Acting Prime Minister Steven Miles at 10:30 a.m. the day before (Ms Palaszczuk was in Tokyo to accept Brisbane as host of the Games Olympics of 2032), she would have only had a few hours to gather her things. and start driving day and night to get there on time.

Unable to find a short-term, affordable rental in Canberra, she began to drift north “on a wing and praying” that the border would reopen in a few weeks.

This is not the case.

She camped and waited in despair, suffering from the small art studio in her Townsville rental, which she has so far managed to maintain.

One day near her worst, before she found the Showgrounds, she realized it had been a month since her last shower.

“I had practically lost all hope,” she says.

She arrived in Murwillumbah in the first week of October, making her one of the oldest residents of the campsite.

Ms. Fallon recently moved it to one of the old exhibition sheds, a little luxury.

“I know I love Queensland. I know I do, ”says Wendy.

“But it’s so tainted right now. And when I get there, when I get home, I know I’ll be stronger. I know I’m fine.

“But we’ve waited so long. Now that we’re definitely recovering from it, it’s actually pretty scary because we don’t know what life has in store for us. We don’t have a job. We do not have money. We just have to get there.

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