Article provided by the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service
Hume Riverina Community Legal Service plays a unique role as a cross border community legal centre whose catchment is split by the NSW-Victorian border.
The closure of this border for the first time in 100 years has created additional challenges for our community. We expect an increase in family law issues and family violence will occur as the border remains closed. There’s already been an influx of people wanting our advice on parenting arrangements and we have heard that threats are being made to withhold children due to the border closure. We also have major concerns about the impact this border closure is having on the vulnerable, our young people and those in our community who need a range of supports.
After we gained an understanding of the issues facing our community and the solutions needed, we raised them with our local MPs and the Victorian and NSW cross border commissioners, and will continue to do so as issues are identified. You can read the full statement on our advocacy approach here.
People living on the Victoria/New South Wales border frequently travel “interstate” to access medical appointments and healthcare, childcare, schooling, Courts, for child contact purposes, and many other reasons.
According to a recent HRCLS survey, 47% of people living in Albury-Wodonga cross the border more than seven times per week and over 14% said they did so more than 16 times. People in other border towns such as Moama/Echuca, Mulwala/Yarrawonga and Corowa/Rutherglen live similar experiences. They view their community as one, despite the river flowing between them.
Border residents often have interrelated Victorian and NSW legal problems and it can be extremely complex to get these issues resolved. It’s not unusual to have multiple agencies on both sides of the border involved in one matter just to try to reach a solution, and this creates its own set of challenges from a legal perspective.
The border closure has had a significant impact on our communities, and the full ramifications remain to be seen with more changes to the border closure restrictions possible. But people on the border can be assured we will be here for them if they need our help. We will be continuing to provide all services by phone, with staff working from home from their NSW or Victorian homes!