Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn give advice to a woman who hasn’t seen her family in two years due to the international border closures.
Is the international border closure in Australia legal? I’m a dual citizen of Ireland and Australia with most of my family back in Ireland. I haven’t seen them for almost two years and don’t know when I’ll see them again. I understood at the beginning of the pandemic why we needed to stay put but now I’m getting frustrated. Can I be kept in a country with no date to leave? I want to visit my family but my life is here so I’d need to be able to come back. What are my rights? – Catrin, WA.
There have been four failed legal challenges to the various covid border restrictions in Australia.
The most recent of these, decided by the full Federal Court, resulted in an unanimous rejection of the argument that the federal health minister has no power to impose a blanket rule stopping citizens from leaving the country.
The Biosecurity Act 2015 gives the health minister extra powers to prevent or control the spread of disease in Australia, and it’s this legislation that is being relied on to close Australia’s borders.
Even though you have dual citizenship Catrin, that alone will unlikely qualify for an exemption as you do not usually live in Ireland.
You will only be able to leave Australia for a country outside the “border-bubble” if you obtain an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.