Travellers find refuge behind the Barrier
Saturday, 21st November, 2020
By Myles Burt
The Barrier Highway was ablaze with headlights on Wednesday night as travellers looked to escape from South Australia before the COVID lockdown.
Leon Teale and his family were driving through SA to look at some properties when they decided to make a break for the NSW border after hearing the lockdown announcement.
Mr Teale said rather than taking a gamble on when the lockdown would lift, they powered across the state from Sheringa, 107kms north of Coffin Bay on the western side of the Eyre Peninsula, to Broken Hill.
“We high-tailed it, and actually came through the border at 2am,” he said.
“We didn’t want to get stuck living out of that car with a four-month-old.”
The family had set out from Margaret River in Western Australia to Bryon Bay so that his grandmother could see their baby daughter for the first time.
Mr Teale said they’re originally from Mullumbimby but had been in living in WA for work. He said he was happy to be out of WA which has had its borders closed to the rest of the country since April.
“I love it in WA but enough’s enough. People can’t even go to funerals in the eastern states because they’re afraid they can’t come back in to their job.
“We know a lot of people in the mining industry, they’re from Melbourne and their whole families have been spilt now because the wife can’t come and the dad can’t go home.”
Mr Teale said the SA lockdown announcement pushed their plans forward as they were looking to stay in SA for a couple of weeks.
Travelling around the Eyre Peninsula, Mr Teale said they had a good time in Port Lincoln with locals happy to see tourists. He said the locals had even offered them a place to stay.
“They were super nice, which has been great because our friends were travelling when it first all went down and they were stuck in South Australia,” Mr Teale said.
“People were being un-Australian, is the best thing to say.”
“I didn’t want my bub to have to deal with that if it got to that stage.”
Also in Broken Hill were Wilfried Filipczyk and Maryanne Finder who cut their holiday short after hearing the lockdown announcement.
They drove from Marion Bay on the Yorke Peninsula to the NSW border on Wednesday.
Mr Filipczyk said he didn’t understand why the state government didn’t just lock down Adelaide.
“Like in Melbourne, anybody that goes in, put them in quarantine, don’t let anybody out,” Mr Filipczyk said.
“The regional people could’ve travelled and the South Australian country area would’ve made money from us.”
Ms Finder said the Barrier Highway to Broken Hill was very busy, likening the traffic to Parramatta Road in Sydney. She said they decided to camp at the Thackaringa Rest Area, where about 50 cars and vans had stopped.
“We got to the rest area at 10.30pm and we had to squeeze between two caravans to find a spot,” Ms Finder said.
Broken Hill resident Dionne Devlin said she was driving into SA to meet up with her two daughters who were making their way out of SA to Broken Hill before the lockdown begun.
Ms Devlin said the further they went into SA, the more headlights they saw coming towards NSW.
“It was packed, a lot of cars coming back, thousands,” she said.
“Even as once we turned around at Yunta and started coming back to Broken Hill, we were just part of this endless line of red tail lights.
“It was just quite incredibly.”
Ms Devlin said she wasn’t worried about the possibility of COVID-19 from the travellers, as she was confident that SA has got onto the outbreak very quickly and that all locals knew the drill if they’re worried about the virus.
“If you’re concerned, wear a mask and we can be tested any time here. The tests come back really quickly and we know to isolate.”