The end may be in sight for thousands of Australians stranded abroad as the international border reopens next week and after 20 months of closing time some still feel abandoned.
- More than 47,000 Australians are still stranded abroad and want to return home
- All states and territories have provided a timeline for the reopening of international borders, except Western Australia
- For some Australian expats, the experience has made them feel abandoned by their country
Quarantine requirements will no longer apply to fully vaccinated international travelers from 1 November, with New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT allowing free entry and exit.
This means that vaccinated travelers can fly internationally, to and from these states, without needing a dispensation to leave Australia, and when they return, they can get off the plane without quarantine.
Unvaccinated travelers will still face quarantine restrictions.
Australia’s re-entry into the wider world has sent off in tears of relief as they race to book tickets home after the trials of flight cancellations and lost family connections.
Listed as vulnerable by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), expats Gauri and Peter Davies have tried to return home from London without success.
They are now booked on a flight to Sydney next week to introduce their new baby son to their family.
“We cried,” Mrs. Davies said at 7:30 p.m. “We were so happy when we heard the news, but we are still cautious because we have commercial tickets and commercial tickets can be canceled.”
“It has certainly been, I would say, the most difficult last few years of our lives,” Mr Davies added.
Qanta’s fleet roars back to life
The national airline, Qantas, is heading out of the “darkest period” in the airline’s 100-year history after sinking planes and killing thousands of employees.
As the airline begins to return its fleet to full-time flight plans, 6,000 international workers will be back at work in December.
Qantas has also unveiled plans to dust off its A380 superjumbo, which has been parked in the California desert.
“We want to get back to the bustle and pace of life we had two years ago,” Qantas line maintenance chief John Walker said at 7.30am during a tour of the airline’s jet base in Sydney.
“We’re all ready.”
Western Australians in limbo, undated
All states except Western Australia have outlined a timeline for reopening borders for international travel.
Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania plan to ease restrictions before Christmas, while the Northern Territory looks to January to end quarantine requirements.
The Western Australian expatriate Andyy Hope, who is in New York City, wants to move back to Perth and be reunited with the family, but he is in limbo.
The 34-year-old has called on Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan to choose a set date.
“He fumbles with the ball at the last minute,” Mr. Hope 7.30.
The Premier McGowan’s office said that “more details on WA’s transition will be released in due course, in line with our expert advice on public health”.
Expats disappointed with Australia’s handling of borders
The DFAT said it had helped 58,600 Australians return home since the pandemic began, facilitating 197 repatriation flights.
But there is a persistent sense of abandonment among some expats who claim the government could have done more to get more Australians home.
The number of Australians wishing to return remains stubbornly high at 47,100, of which 4,700 are classified as vulnerable.
Brenton Mauriello of the Australia-ASEAN Chamber of Commerce in Thailand says Australia’s uncompromising stance has damaged the nation’s reputation among expats.
“Couldn’t there have been a more empathetic or nuanced approach to the way they treated Australians? Are we less Australian because we are offshore?”
Sam Shepard traveled to Germany for love before the pandemic and was stranded with his German partner in Berlin.
He said the experience of being locked out had changed his view of Australia.
“It makes you question what it means to be Australian.”
Watch this story at 7.30pm tonight on ABC TV and iview.
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