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Northern Rivers Local News

ONE FOR THE RECORD

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

ONE FOR THE RECORD

Tweed author captures curious Covid-19 chapter in new book

By MARGARET DEKKER

When retired Tweed Coast counsellor Meredith Lewellyn holds the book she’s just written, tears of joy and disbelief well in her eyes.

Joy that she wrote it – “I am no writer” – but disbelief too that this surreal chapter in Australian history on which ‘Locked Out’ is based – of Queensland’s 2021 border closure – ever happened.

Between July 23, 2021 and January 15, 2022 the Queensland-NSW border was barricaded, stopping countless people from entering the state and poignantly, thousands of Queenslanders from going to their own homes while a pandemic played out.

While waiting, up to six months for some, these people – grey nomads, parents, children, solo travellers, interstate workers, and their pets, vehicles, and belongings – were holed up in makeshift arrangements largely in regional New South Wales, as a clogged Queensland Government entry process slowly reached their name and hopefully let them in.

There was no direct government support nor funding for these ‘refugees of their own country’ during this time as the bills, missed commitments and lost moments racked up back at home, amounting to thousands of dollars and tears.

It’s a remarkable story and one Meredith Llewellyn tells from her perspective as a Tweed resident, born-Queenslander, devout Christian, mother, and tireless campaigner for reportedly 16-thousand displaced people.

“When I look at the book I think ‘Yes, these stories had to be written.  They had to be told, they couldn’t just dissipate and be lost.  They had to be put in print and go into the annals of Australian history,” Meredith Llewellyn author, told The Northern Rivers Times.

“I felt the surge of outrage rise again as I grappled with what was happening.  This was Australia in 2021, a civilised nation, a land of opportunity, a lucky country.  What was happening to our country?  Government decisions were forcing people into desperate situations.  People were facing homelessness or were already without a safe place to stay and had lost their source of income.  Any savings they had were fast disappearing.  They still faced weeks of not being allowed home.  There was no way.  They were locked out.” Meredith Llewellyn writes in her new book, ‘Locked Out.’

The 122-page work charts the lived experiences of Queensland residents – new and returning – unable to get home, over weeks that grew into long months.

“I’m not aware of any other state or country in the world who locked their residents out from their homes,” Meredith Llewellyn author said.

From ‘Horse Lady,’ prevented from feeding her prized horses on the Gold Coast; snow-worker Grant who arrived in Meredith’s driveway, destitute and broken after living in his car at a Tweed truck stop for 6-weeks “I held him as he shook and trembled”  .. Wendy who’d had two showers in one month; Tez and Peter holed up in Tenterfield; Leah’s mission to enter Queensland’s Hotel Quarantine program from nearby Tweed Shire via Sydney; and then the suicidal.  To name a few.

“They had no place to stay other than building sheds, deserted warehouses, roadsides, truck stops and cars – places where there was no running water, no electricity, no bathroom.” Meredith Llewellyn explains in ‘Locked Out.’

She laments these “refugees’” only crime was not getting back to Queensland in time before the border closed; either because they didn’t get the message or couldn’t leave a dying relative or interstate work or were just physically unable to drive the distance in the given hours.

Meredith Llewellyn feels the Government line “We’re keeping Queenslanders safe” was unfair, even insulting, and was shocked at the degree of public support in Queensland for this justification at the time.

“It appeared that only Queenslanders who were in Queensland were the ones worth protecting or being kept ‘safe.’  Over and over, daily we heard it stated, “We are keeping Queenslanders safe.”  There were over 16,000 Queenslanders not safe, but there was nothing that reassured them they were worth keeping safe,” she writes.

‘Locked Out’ is also Meredith Llewellyn’s story of how she and husband David rallied friends, family, her Presbyterian church community, locals, to raise tens of thousands of dollars privately to help keep these ‘Queensland Refugees’ afloat; rents paid back home, a food voucher here, a camping spot and hired caravan there, a warm meal and even warmer hug.

As Meredith relentlessly spoke out; on the airwaves, to Queensland’s press, to state and federal politicians including then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to opposition members, even the state’s Human Rights Commissioner – in pursuit of having these people’s stories voiced, heard, and validated when all others had seemingly forgotten them as “they weren’t important enough.”

“And I had to write it for me too.  There’s a disbelief still that goes with ‘what happened?’ and what did we all live through for 6-months; that this was Australia and we treated people like this.  That we created a minority group, and the governments left them without support,” Meredith Llewellyn writes in ‘Locked Out.’

“I was left wondering what it was that was stopping the Queensland government from offering such logical solutions to allowing people to return to the safety of their own homes …”

More broadly, Meredith also questions the notion of compassion, in that unprecedented time of Covid-19 in Australia.

“Is this what COVID and COVID decisions have done to us as Australians – made us forget what putting the boot on the other foot feels like?  Blinded us to ‘what if that was me’ thinking and being able to see things from someone else’s position?  Closed the compassion valve in our hearts?  No longer does it feel that we are the land of the free, the land of possibilities, the lucky country.”

For all its regret, ‘Locked Out’ is also a celebration of the human spirit and the many acts of love and kindness performed in dire circumstances.  And humour, as changing government decisions and directives unfolded over the weeks – Queensland’s Home Quarantine Trial, for one – testing the patience and resolve of many.

“My tolerance level has now exceeded my medication intake!!” ‘Robyn’ was quoted from the now fabled Facebook page, ‘Homeless Outside QLD due to border restrictions.’

This closed group, which grew to 5000 members at its height, is also part of the ‘Locked Out’ story as group members rallied, advised, supported, and ultimately saw each other home to Queensland.

The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales is also mentioned for its part in providing showgrounds, support, smiles and a desperately needed safe haven for so many then.

“ .. Ballina to Kyogle, a lot of these Northern Rivers communities, they housed and cared for these Queenslanders and there’s a lot of love that’s there for many of the Queenslanders who eventually went home.

“ .. The Murwillumbah wider community became aware of the situation they had on their doorstep and grocery deliveries, fruit boxes, fuel and grocery vouchers, pizza nights, sausage sizzles, donated monies for park fees, were often and many in the weeks that became months for those camped there,” Meredith Llewellyn writes in ‘Locked Out.’

Meg and Greg Fallon, the ‘care takers’ at Murwillumbah Showgrounds, received a special mention.

“They nursed those people who arrived in shambolic wretchedness, and they gathered the community around, and that community embraced and looked after those people for weeks, even months.”

Meredith Llewellyn also dedicates a chapter to forgiveness.

“If we don’t, they define us forever.”

.. As she looks to the greater purpose of the book, among the first published in Australia on the Covid-19 experience (“that’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?”) less than 12-months after these extraordinary events unfolded.

“I hope it will acknowledge that there was so much harm done and lasting harm and hurt, and losses that they haven’t recovered from yet, financial loss, mental loss, emotional loss, the loss of time.

“Surely there must be some accountability for the loss of human rights in leaving people without access to the things that are basic to health, wellbeing and survival?” Meredith Llewellyn writes in ‘Locked Out.’

.. Before this true ‘freedom-fighter’ (who some are now tipping for a Medal of the Order of Australia) is asked a simple question, ‘Are you glad you wrote Locked Out?’

“Some people might think the book is a bat that I’m going to beat up bureaucrats with, that’s not why I wrote the book, I wrote it because people need to be validated for what they went through, they need a chance to have their voice heard and they need to see it was real what happened and they need to know that somebody understood and that they did matter,” Meredith Lewellyn author told The Northern Rivers Times.

“Even as I read it now as a hard copy, there are still moments in there where I pause and the tears flow,” she smiled quietly.

‘Locked Out’ is available through authoracademybookstore.com.au – Proceeds from its sales go to charity.

Responses to the book, ‘Locked Out’

“I had started to read the book but have put it aside. I think I need to mentally ready myself. Our journey was painful, but others were much worse. Congratulations on the book, these stories needed to be told.

“I will never forgive this QLD gov, but I am going to focus on and be inspired by you and all those wonderful people who stepped up and supported each other. If it wasn’t for the FB page and your constant words of support, your radio interviews and now your book! It would have been a lot harder. We were locked out for 4.5 months and it would have been a very lonely experience without you all.

“I’m a border resident and this has etched in my mind forever …

“Not a week goes past where we don’t mention quarantine and the rubbish and cost, we endured. Thank you for writing, Meredith Llewelyn,” members of the ‘Homeless outside of QLD’ Facebook page wrote.

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Flying high – Redmen selected in Corella’s Squad

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Flying high – Redmen selected in Corella’s Squad

 

By Gary Nichols

TWO Grafton Redmen players have bolted into the NSW Country Corella’s team after impressive debuts for Mid North Coast at the NSW Country Championships in Tamworth over the June long weekend.

Natalie Blackadder and Yuri Fuller have been instrumental in Grafton’s run to a tilt at this year’s Mid North Coast Women’s 10s premiership.

Both players had no idea if they did enough to gain selection in the Country squad, however a phone call from the Corellas’ coach on Friday confirmed what they hoped to hear.

“The coach called me about 10am while I was at work. He asked me how I was going and said he was just giving me a call to inform me I had been selected in the Country squad,” a jubilant Blackadder said.

“He also gave me a few tips on what I have to work on to improve my game which was great.”

It wasn’t so smooth sailing for Fuller who had to endure a nervous ten-hour wait for the call she thought would never eventuate.

“I didn’t get an early phone call because I put down the wrong number on the registration sheet,” Fuller laughed.

“They had to go searching for me and I got the phone call about eight-thirty that night.

“During the day I just excepted my fate and believed I missed out.”

Blackadder admitted she was a bundle of nerves before Mid North Coast’s opening game in Tamworth but added as soon as she ran out on the field the nerves quickly vanished.

“I thought I was going to die when we were warming up,” Blackadder said.

“But once I got out there, I cleared my head, made my first tackle and I was all good.

“It was such a different experience playing fifteen-a-side rugby. You have your role, and you have to stick with it as there is less room than ten-a-side.”

For the rangy Redmen back-rower, it was by chance she even tried out for the representative side.

“I only tried out for Mid North Coast because Tamar (McHugh, Redmen captain) and Yuri did it. I thought to myself, why not give it a go and see where it takes me,” she said.

Fuller, a prolific try-scorer, who can slot into most positions in the backline, said her selection had a lot to do with the improvement of the Grafton Redmen Women’s side and the quality of women’s rugby throughout the Mid North Coast.

“Our team has improved dramatically over the past two years and obviously the growth of Women’s Mid North Coast rugby has produced a higher standard with quality players throughout the Zone,” Fuller said.

 

For more sports news, click here.

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GIANTS AFLW return to Canberra for first Community Camp

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GIANTS AFLW return to Canberra for first Community Camp

 

The GIANTS’ AFLW list is heading to Canberra on 4-5 July to meet the footy community and inspire the next generation of footy superstars, as part of the first-ever, league wide AFLW Community Camp program.

Around two months out from its NAB AFLW Round 1 clash at Manuka Oval on Saturday, 31 August, the GIANTS players will spend some time with their fans at their home away from home.

Headlining the camp is the Canberra Girls Footy Festival which welcomes girls aged 5-14 to get involved in a jam-packed night of fun and footy alongside GIANTS AFLW players.

To be held at EPC Solar Park in Phillip on Thursday, 4 July, the Girls Footy Festival is open to local footballers and NAB AFL Auskick participants, as well as anyone wanting to come and try Australian rules football in a fun and friendly environment. In addition to the GIANTS players, there will be activities and games, large inflatables, giveaways and, of course, a barbecue.

As part of the AFLW Community Camp, the GIANTS will also hold a Coach Your Way session featuring GIANTS coaching staff and its star defender and accredited Level 3 coach, Katherine Smith.

On Friday, 5 July the GIANTS players will connect with hundreds of Canberra school children when they visit to schools around the nation’s capital.

AFL NSW/ACT’s Participation and Programs Manager, Dylan Potter, said of the GIANTS’ 2024 AFLW Community Camp: “This is another great opportunity for footy fans in Canberra to meet elite players face to face.

“Auskick and junior girls will be particularly excited with the Canberra Girls Footy Festival kicking off on Thursday. This will be the first time we’ve brought women and girls from across the ACT to meet and learn from the GIANTS’ AFLW team and I can’t wait to see everyone loving the game together.

“Thank you in advance to the community for their support and the GIANTS AFLW program for visiting Canberra in a year when the ACT is celebrating 100 years of footy.”

Canberra Girls Footy Festival details
Date: Thursday, July 4
Time: 4:30pm-7pm
Location: EPC Solar Park, Phillip
Age: 5-14 years

Coach Your Way program
The Coach Your Way Program is exclusively available for women and girls looking to develop their skills in coaching.
Date: Thursday, July 4
Time: 5:30pm-7pm
Location: EPC Solar Park, Phillip
Register: Scan the QR Code

NAB AFL Auskick Burst in Canberra
Participants inspired by the GIANTS will have an opportunity to join the fun weekly, with NAB AFL Auskick opening in Canberra from 21 July, offering participants half a season of the Auskick experience and the beloved Auskick pack.

We call it Auskick Burst, with participants bursting on the footy scene and having a great time.

Auskick Burst will be offered at a greatly reduced price, which will be revealed before 4 July’s Girls Footy Festival.

NAB AFLW Season 9 coming to Canberra
GIANTS fans will get a chance to see the team in action in Round 1 of the NAB AFLW season and again in Round 3.
Round 1
1:05pm Saturday, 31 August
GIANTS v Western Bulldogs
Round 3
5:05pm Sunday, 15 September
GIANTS v Gold Coast Suns

Tickets for these matches will be available closer to the date.

 

For more sports news, click here.

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Seniors Urged to Speak Up About Home Aged Care Services

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NOTICE OF MEMBERS EXTRAORINDARY LAND DEALING MEETING

Seniors Urged to Speak Up About Home Aged Care Services

 

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has released its first report specifically for people receiving home aged care services, titled Complaints about Aged Care Home Services – Insights for People Receiving Care. The report highlights several critical issues and offers guidance on how recipients can address their concerns.

Major Issues Identified:

  • Consultation and Communication: The most frequent complaints (15%) relate to poor consultation and communication between service providers and recipients.
  • Fees and Charges: The second most common issue (10%) involves financial concerns, particularly regarding fees and charges.

Despite the high number of people accessing home care services, there are fewer complaints compared to residential aged care. Over the report period (July to December 2023), the commission received 8,021 complaints and inquiries, resolving about 4,800 of them (just over half). The average resolution time was 59 days, with 65% of complaints resolved within 60 days.

Encouraging Feedback and Complaints

The report emphasizes the importance of feedback from the over 1 million older Australians receiving home care services. It aims to boost confidence in the quality and safety of home care by ensuring recipients feel empowered to express their concerns.

Key Messages from the Commission:

  • Choice and Control: Recipients should have choice and control over their care.
  • Raising Concerns: If something isn’t right, recipients are encouraged to speak up.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson and Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Louise Macleod both stress the importance of addressing issues directly with service providers. However, if this is not possible or if issues remain unresolved, the commission is available to assist.

How to Make a Complaint

Complaints can be made directly to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission through the following channels:

Who Can Make a Complaint:

  • Recipients of aged care services
  • Family, friends, representatives, and carers of recipients
  • Aged care staff and volunteers
  • Health and medical professionals

Important Note:

  • Service providers cannot punish anyone for making a complaint.
  • If you’re raising a concern on behalf of someone else, ensure they are aware and involved in the process.

For more detailed information on making a complaint and understanding the complaints process, visit the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission website.

Conclusion

The report underscores the importance of open communication and the need for recipients of home care services to feel confident in raising issues. By addressing concerns directly or through the commission, recipients can help ensure they receive the high-quality care they deserve.

 

For more seniors news, click here.

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