‘On the Brink of Tears’: WA Border Backflip Strands Aussie Couple

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
January 22, 2022Updated: January 22, 2022

Karen and Mike Malherbe expected to move to Western Australia (WA) next month and reunite with their family for the first time in three years. But meeting their grandchild now seems to be on hold for the foreseeable future.

The couple had already sold their home in Illawarra, New South Wales (NSW), and bought a new one near Busselton in WA.

But after the WA government on Thursday announced that it had backflipped on reopening the state border on Feb. 5, after promising not to, the pair were shattered.

The Malherbes have to be out of their house in a week, but said they still have no idea when they will be able to move into their new one in WA.

“I just really don’t understand why we’re being basically banned from entering a state of our own country,” Malherbe added. “I’m so upset that I didn’t sleep all night long. I’m on the brink of tears still.”

As a fresh reopening date for the western state has not been set, thousands of people separated from their loved ones were left in limbo, while West Australians faced being trapped indefinitely within their own.

Epoch Times Photo
WA Premier Mark McGowan speaks during an announcement in Perth, Australia, on Dec. 13, 2021. (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image)

WA Premier Mark McGowan promised last month only an “unforeseen emergency,” such as the emergence of a more dangerous strain or a realisation that Omicron was more severe than expected, could push back the reopening date.

This week he insisted his position had not changed but argued opening up was “reckless and irresponsible” amid rising Omicron cases and could “devastate” many industries, despite WA having 82 active cases.

“I’ve been contacted by many people very happy with the announcement we’ve made … because it gives them the opportunity to get vaccinated,” he said on Friday.

The premier said he would like to see the state’s double-dose vaccination rate reach 90 percent before easing border controls. As of Jan. 22 it is 89.2 percent.

The Malherbes have decided to take a van and head “south and west” and “hope for the best.”

A state government spokesperson did not confirm whether the couple would be eligible for a travel exemption, the AAP reported.

Exemptions will only be granted to returning West Australians, a small class of approved travellers like members of the parliament, and those entering the border on compassionate grounds—for funerals or to see dying relatives. Travellers need to be double-vaccinated and will face 14 days in quarantine.

“Directions for the new border settings need to be drawn up as they are tailored to the new border arrangements, and will be finalised soon,” the spokesperson’s statement read.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Friday the border backflip “is a decision that the Western Australian government themselves have taken and one for them to explain.”

On the same day, Flight Centre announced it would consider a constitutional challenge against WA’s border closures, while Qantas stated it would cancel thousands of domestic flights into Perth through to the end of April.

“The rest of the country is focused on getting through this but WA is still playing for time, despite people doing the right thing and getting vaccinated,” Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said.

“The question is what it will take for them to open.”

AAP contributed to this report.