NSW students who board in Queensland will be able to return home for the upcoming school holidays, much to the relief of families across the North West.
On Tuesday, Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young approved a border exemption, allowing Queensland boarding school students from NSW and ACT Local Government Areas that have no active COVID-19 cases to go home and then return to school without the need to quarantine.
After weeks of campaigning and appeals to the Queensland Premier, it's a welcome relief for many parents and children from the Moree Plains Shire.
Moree mum Tammy Elbourne hasn't seen her three children since the beginning of the term, and is now looking forward to being able to bring them home from their Brisbane boarding school next week.
"It'll be so good," she said.
"I think we're all just busting to get them home and in their own beds.
"The biggest thing is not having to quarantine if they do come home. We didn't know what we were going to do."
Mrs Elbourne is particularly keen to be with her eldest son Josh, who broke his leg playing rugby a few weeks ago and had to undergo surgery without the support of his parents.
And while she's grateful the Queensland government has finally seen reason, Mrs Elbourne wants to ensure no other family has to go through what hers endured and is pushing for clarification regarding whether the exemption will allow parents to cross the border if an emergency happens and their child is sick or injured.
"We need to continue to work hard so that what happened to us doesn't happen to any other family," she said.
"We also need to make sure our community has access to their medical services in a much easier way."
Fellow Moree mum Natalie Pearce, who temporarily relocated to Queensland to be close to her daughter during this time, also welcomed the news.
"I'm excited that they've finally seen the light and that common sense has prevailed," she said.
"We have made other plans for the holidays because we didn't think we'd be coming home, but I'm ecstatic that it's allowed us to come home.
"I'll come home after the holidays now."
According to Dr Young's notice on Tuesday, primary and secondary boarding school students with a primary place of residence in either the ACT or NSW local government areas with no active cases of COVID-19 are classed as exempt.
The exemption comes with a number of clauses relating to direct road travel to and from school and not leaving the place of residence for the entire holiday period.
According to a Queensland Health spokesperson, students returning to Queensland will have to undertake a COVID-19 test.
Students traveling by air from built-up areas and from anywhere in Victoria are still required to quarantine on arrival in Queensland, either at their boarding school if there is enough space for them to be isolated from other students, or in hotel quarantine with a parent or guardian.
The extension of Queensland's strict border bubble to include Moree following a fire that razed three essential businesses in the border community of Mungindi made it possible for a number of Moree students to return from holidays without quarantining, however there were many from surrounding areas who were left with uncertainty.
"That was great news and very much welcome for Mungindi and people in the 2400 postcode, but it still left many families, such as those from Pally and Gurley, devastated that they weren't included," Mrs Elbourne said.
"The fact that they have now included all NSW LGA's with no cases means all kids can safely come home and safely go back to school without quarantining."
ICPA Australia, ICPA NSW and ICPA Queensland and have been working tirelessly to support families and find a workable solution to the impasse which had resulted from the border restrictions and welcomed the Queensland Government's announcement on Tuesday.
ICPA NSW state president Claire Butler said the news has come at exactly the right time, ensuring certainty and clarity for families as the school holidays approach.
"This announcement is a huge relief to our parents and their children," she said.
"We understand caution with the current pandemic, but these children never posed a threat to health in the first place and we are very pleased their education will now continue without unnecessary disruption and anxiety."
While this announcement by the Queensland government has provided a much needed boost to families and their children, ICPA is calling for a collaborative, nationally-consistent and long-term approach to be applied during ongoing situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic so that families are not faced with continued uncertainty and anxiety around educating their children.
ICPA has requested that a Pandemic Advisory Group, made up of government and representatives from ICPA as well as other relevant organisations such as the Australian Boarding School Association (ABSA), be established to work on this approach.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said it's a great first step, and hopes the Queensland Premier will see reason and reopen the border to communities with no active COVID-19 cases.
"Finally, common sense has prevailed and the voice of regional NSW and Queensland has been heard," he said.
"It's disappointing that it's taken a month, but I think it's sensible.
"They've now conceded the point that we don't have COVID-19 cases out here. Now that they've conceded that point, they should get rid of all border restrictions for all communities that are COVID-free."
For the full details of the border exemption for boarding school students, go to www.grc.qld.gov.au/covid-19-information-2/covid-19-information