By JO RODDA*

DURING a speech by a community leader in early 2013 at the induction of that year’s crop of Northern Mallee Leaders, words were uttered that made an unforgettable impression upon me.

“For the greater good.” I questioned then and now − for whose greater good are decisions made?

Without a doubt, no one could have predicted the year that would be 2020. It has been difficult, that is for sure with people experiencing hardship and distress.

Jobs have been lost, business’s closed and lives lost and all the while we are still firmly in the clutches of this pandemic.

Around one hundred years ago following a “Sunraysed” campaign driven by the Australian Dried Fruit Association to promote our luscious sun dried fruit, the name Sunraysia was born.

Our community of Sunraysia has grown and thrived and given our distance from each states capital cities, we have learnt to be self-reliant as a region. We have worked with our cross border friends as one without regard to the arbitrary boundary of the mighty Murray River.

That is until now…..

Our district as a whole region, as one community is a concept that seems to be completely irrelevant to those in power who reside many hundreds of kilometres away.

Those who are making the rules are doing so “for the greater good”, without regard for the very fabric of our community.

Yes we may be separate states, but that is a thought far from the minds of the many people who cross the “border” every single day.

Be it for work, for school, to shop or access health care or just as part of everyday family life.

There is no doubt the current COVID-19 threat is real and in need of being taken seriously, but the restrictions placed upon our border community are endangering lives and livelihoods and fracturing the very fabric of our community.

One only has to pass through the border check point once to wonder how an ambulance or the fire services could possibly cross in the case of an emergency.

Given the long lines of traffic transiting the checkpoint at any given time, access to the other side of the river for an ambulance for example would be severely hampered, gravely risking lives.

How does imposing unworkable and dangerous restrictions on our regional border community, that collectively have not had a positive case of the virus for many weeks, provide any level of protection for anyone, let alone those who share a border as part of their community?

In simple terms, it does not….

Being a leader and making decisions “for the greater good” in these trying times is no doubt stressful for our politicians and community leaders and an unenviable role that few would be keen to take on.

It has been said that the state Premiers are mandated to protect the residents of the state under their stewardship.

Perhaps the respective state Premiers could visit the region and explain how imposing such restrictions are providing any level of protection for our border community and the residents within.

There are so many who have been unfairly disadvantaged by an arbitrary line drawn on a map that has created a “border zone” and the implementation of Stage 3 restrictions in Victoria.

People far removed from the communities they have indiscriminately impacted are making the decisions with absolutely no regard for their consequences.

Commonsense must prevail. Regional border communities, that know how to work together, should be consulted on how best to protect our community.

Our community is one. And as one we now need to come together to support each other through these difficult times. Check on your neighbour, your friends and colleagues. Stay connected. Stay positive.

We will as a community move through these trying times. Please remember to be kind. We really do not know what may be going on in another’s life. Practice self-restraint and consider your words.

Let our “Sunraysed” spirit shine through and let’s do what we do best. Do it as one for the “greater good” of our community

* Jo Rodda is a Sunraysia Resident