FIFO families dealing with perpetual uncertainty of separation due to coronavirus border closures
Townsville hairdresser Jessie Pegoraro has had her hands full caring for her two young daughters during the coronavirus pandemic.
Her partner, Anthony Gabiola, is a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) worker and has been stuck in Western Australia since March.
“We chose to do FIFO, we’ve chosen this lifestyle,” Ms Pegoraro told 7.30.
“But we didn’t choose him to fly out and never know when to fly home.
“I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
FIFO workers need to apply for travel exemptions and, if granted, undergo two weeks quarantine every time they enter WA.
Mr Gabiola is worried if he flies back to Queensland, he will not be allowed back into WA to work.
“If I can’t get back, well, I’m out of a job,” Mr Gabiola told 7.30.
“We’ve got a mortgage. So if I’m out of a job, well, yeah, you’re buggered pretty much.”
Ms Pegoraro said the uncertainty had been particularly tough on her five-year-old daughter, Estelle.
“I found her once underneath her bed crying because she just wants Dad to come home,” she said.
WA’s tough border policy has been credited with keeping virus numbers low in the state, but for those separated from their loved ones it is coming at a cost.
A second wave of infections has thwarted a push by the Federal Government to open domestic borders this month.
All states and territories now have severe restrictions in place for travellers from Victoria and other emerging hotspots.
Dr Patrick Clarke, of Curtin University’s School of Psychology, said the pandemic had left many struggling with a sense of perpetual uncertainty.
“When people are separated from their families and support networks for long periods of time, it can have a significant detrimental impact on their levels of anxiety and stress,” he told 7.30.
“When we aren’t able to readily access those support networks, people can experience more frequent worry and this can contribute to other things like sleep disturbance and fatigue.”
‘You just want to cry’
In locked-down Melbourne, another FIFO family is trying to stay connected with regular Facetime calls.
Sharon Smith’s husband Paul works at a Kalgoorlie mine and has not been home since March.
The father of three is missing out on life events, like finding out he is going to be a grandfather and his youngest daughter Erin’s upcoming 21st birthday celebrations.
“You have days where you just want to cry all day because you just feel so frustrated,” Ms Smith told 7.30.
“You just want a hug or that person there.”
Ms Smith applied for an exemption to visit her husband in June, but it was knocked back.
With coronavirus cases climbing in Victoria, that isn’t likely to change in the near future.
“You know there is talk that this could be going on for a long time and soon we may have to make really tough decisions,” Ms Smith said.
“Do you quit your job? Do I leave my kids in Melbourne and move over there?”
‘We just want to spend time together’
Jessie Pegoraro is waiting to hear if Mr Gabiola’s request for an exemption to fly to Queensland in August will be granted.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re extremely thankful to both have jobs in this pandemic, extremely thankful,” Ms Pegoraro said.
“To me, a FIFO worker is an essential worker.
“I’m really hoping that Queensland has proved that we’re safe enough to open our border between Queensland and WA.
“We all want to just spend that time together.”