Albany man finally allowed back home

By Michael Roberts | posted on September 11, 2020

WHILE life is blissfully normal for the majority of Western Australians post the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still tens of thousands of Aussies stuck overseas not knowing when they will get home.

Albany born and raised Henry Robinson was one of about 23,000 citizens on the waiting list for a flight back to Australia until he and his fiancee Caity managed to secure a plane trip to Perth last week.

Speaking to the Weekender on his sixth day in hotel quarantine, Mr Robinson said it was a bizarre feeling having to justify why he should return to WA.

“It was far from simple and incredibly stressful,” he said.

“We had four sets of flights cancelled. They didn’t approve Caity’s application to come home until 48-hours out from when we flew.”

Mr Robinson, who was temporarily living in London for work, said it hadn’t been practical to immediately leave his job and return before strict border rules came into place.

“As a country, Australia didn’t want everyone overseas getting home at once because it wouldn’t have worked,” he said.

“People like me stayed and kept their jobs, secured new employment in Australia and then moved back.

“Whereas if I’d packed up and left straight away, I would have been coming back unemployed. I would have been more of a burden.”

The project consultant said he felt incredibly lucky to be back in WA but questioned whether people stranded overseas were getting help.

“One of my friends in the UK had a premature baby and he hasn’t been able to get home,” he said.

“If I could have swapped with him, I would have, but it’s not set up that way.

“Our plane had 29 people on it and there’s a list of thousands of people wanting to come home and there’s not a lot they can do.”

International arrivals into Australia were slashed to just over 1,870 people per week in July after State and Territory governments complained their hotel quarantine resources were being stretched too far.

Until October 24, only 525 international passenger arrivals are allowed into Perth every seven days.

Mr Robinson said he didn’t want to come off as whingy or preachy but implored Western Australians to be a little more empathetic to those without a way to get home.

“There are heaps of young Aussies over there who don’t have money to bail them out,” he said.

“Perth isn’t used to dealing with some of the horrible things that other countries have to. We are so lucky, and sometimes because of that we struggle to empathise with people going through a tough time.

“It’s not about complaining or whinging, we just have a duty to be better.”

After a 14-day quarantine in Perth, Mr Robinson said he was most looking forward to going for a swim in the ocean and giving his mum a hug.

“Being an Albany boy, the cold weather and wind doesn’t bother me, so I’m going to be straight in the water no matter the conditions,” he said.