Students call for border exemptions
Students as young as 12 are suffering the consequences of the Queensland border closure, stuck in Brisbane boarding houses unable to see their parents for months on end.
Dozens travel from across Australia to attend St Joseph's Nudgee College, spending time apart from family.
Dean of boarding Christian Oneto said it was a major concern for more than 20 students from NSW and Victoria after the latest announcement from the Queensland Government that the closures could last until Christmas.
"It was an absolute shock," Mr Oneto said.
"It's been really stressful for everybody and there's definitely concern that grades might suffer."
For now, the school is focusing on the September holidays, hopeful Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young will grant exemptions.
A failure to obtain an exemption would force students to stay with host families in Brisbane or visit their homes and face an extended period of quarantine upon their return.
"Throughout the year we've had boys return from Victoria and other hot spots and they've had to do the two week quarantine," Mr Oneto said.
"That's a challenge for any adult, but it's a really big challenge for a young man.
"It places enormous hardship on the boys, it's a difficult ask."
The school is particularly concerned for their Year 12 students who will sit their QCE exam next term.
"They can't go home so it's going to be tough on them," Mr Oneto said.
"We're putting together further academic support for them, and we have counsellors working around the clock."
Meet the students hopeful they can go home next month.
Elton Shibble, Year 12
It has been three months since Year 12 student Elton Shibble last saw his family on their cattle farm in the Hunter Valley, NSW.
"Usually I'd go home every four weeks, so this has been quite a bit longer," Elton said.
"It's been tough on my mental health."
With his final exams looming, remote learning is out of the question.
"I had to do schoolwork online during the first lot of the coronavirus restrictions and it was hard to maintain contact with teachers, it lacked that face-to-face aspect and it felt like it put me at a disadvantage," he said.
"I've gotten back on track but with the situation worsening again I'm anxious about what the future holds."
Elton has applied for an exemption, but feels an approval is unlikely. In that case, he wouldn't return home until after the end of the school year.
"I struggle with that, not being able to go home for six months is hard when you're just 18-years-old.
"There needs to be some consideration for students like us that are struggling, especially for our own wellbeing and our own mental health, especially if we want to continue on with our study."
Frank Burdock, Year 11
Nudgee is a home away from home for Frank Burdock, but he still yearns for his hometown of Warialda in Northern NSW.
"Not being able to go home is a big thing for me, I have a strong connection with my family and with the land," Frank said.
"It pays to be at Nudgee, but this isn't where my family is, and it isn't where I'll be forever, so it's a bit hard."
The college has provided significant support to Frank and his fellow boarders, and he said there's always people checking on him, which makes a big difference.
"But I am concerned about when and if I can go home," he said.
"It changes how I see boarding, but the stance in my family is obviously that education comes first.
"I hope with the pressure the premier is receiving the Queensland Government might come to a conclusion soon to improve things for the people who need it."
Hunter Warby, Year 7
As a new boarder to Nudgee College, Hunter Warby is trying to keep busy and push the border closures to the back of his mind.
"I can't think about it too much otherwise it does become a big deal," Hunter said.
"My first term was difficult because I was missing home, but I got over it and quickly found my mates and I've had a great year.
"But even though I've got mates, I'm still close with my family, and I still want to see them."
It's been three weeks since Hunter last saw his parents, and unless exemptions are granted, he likely won't see them again until after term 4.
"It's going to be tough, I talk to mum and dad every night but I just want to see them face-to-face," he said.
"I hope coronavirus dies down so everyone can see their family, and everything can go back to normal.
"We just have to stick to the rules, like washing your hands."
Originally published as Students call for border exemptions