‘Like sitting in a departure lounge’: Canberrans stuck at Victorian border for a week begin to return home

The first returnees who had been stuck in Victoria waiting NSW Government approval to travel home to Canberra have begun to trickle in.

About 100 Canberrans have been stranded at the NSW-Victoria border since Friday after strict coronavirus restrictions stopped them driving home through NSW.

The sudden change in border rules caught many travellers off-guard, leaving some forced to sleep in their cars.

After six days of talks with the ACT Government, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard gave Canberra drivers stranded in Victoria a four-day window to make it home from the NSW border.

Under the rules, the drivers had to travel between 9:00am to 3:00pm, have sufficient fuel for the whole journey and have a valid permit to enter the ACT.

They were also only allowed one rest stop — in Gundagai. 

A woman holds her dog in a McDonald's car park.
Canberran Anne Cahill Lambert said the process of returning home felt like “a waste of time and energy”.(ABC News: Verity Gorman)

Canberra resident Anne Cahill Lambert was one of about 25 Canberrans who made the trip today and stopped for a short break so she and her dog could stretch their legs.

“This has been a long saga, it has been like sitting in a departure lounge for a week, so we are tired,” she said.

She said the whole process has been a “waste of time and energy”.

NSW Police officers speak to people in cars at McDonald's in Gundagai.
Canberrans enjoy a brief respite in Gundagai, NSW, as they return home to the ACT.(ABC News: Verity Gorman)

As Canberrans reached Hall, just over the ACT border, they were met by ACT police officers and health workers.

Detective Superintendent Mick Calatzis said the checkpoint allowed their permits to be checked and give a reminder that they would now have to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

“They’re under respective public health orders,” he said.

“ACT Health have also got some welcome packs as well and they’ll be under quarantine and directed to go to their address.”

The welcome packs include grocery items like bread, milk and fruit to get residents through until they can organise groceries to be delivered.

A box of food with bread, lettuce, bananas and milk.
Canberrans were given a box of food as they arrived in Hall to support them in self-isolation.(ABC News: Isaac Nowroozi)