Stranded overseas: Coffs girl reveals plight
"Why should I be locked out of my own country when I did everything right?"
Those are the words of Woolgoolga local Brittany Rankin, who is one of more than 20,000 Australians stranded overseas.
She was booked in to fly back home from Canada in early September, and after quitting her job, ending the lease on her apartment, selling her things and packing her bags - her flight was cancelled.
With only five days notice she was informed, like many other Australians have been, that this was because of the Australian Government's quarantine caps.
"Being away from your family, friends and loved ones is the hardest thing I have ever been through. If anything happens to them in the meantime it's something I could never forgive the government for," she said.
"I didn't want to burden the economy or risk bringing the virus at the height of the pandemic globally, and now I am being punished for this."
The 25-year-old university graduate has been living as a resident in Canada for the last year and half on a visa, and when the pandemic first hit she said she followed all the advice from the Australian consulate.
As the problem was initially expected to last some weeks back in March, it did not seem logical for her to leave - especially since she was not a traveller.
She suffers from chronic asthma putting her in the 'high risk' category, and she knew she would come home only to rely on government payments.
She had also signed a lease on an apartment, and was guaranteed a job after lockdowns eased in Toronto.
By June, her family were highly anxious - the situation was dire and it was no longer a 'few weeks' issue, so she decided with advice from the Australian consulate that the best time to leave was in September.
"We also had the government saying horrible and offensive statements saying 'you've had plenty of time to get home'. Hence to why on the 22nd of June I booked my flight home for September 1st."
She was then left distraught, homeless and jobless when her flight was cancelled in early September, and as cases of COVID-19 were escalating in Canada sparking fears of a 'second wave'.
She's now staying with a friend and has luckily managed to pick up part-time work at her previous waitressing job. She has her fingers crossed that she will not be bumped from her next flight booked in late October.
"Never in my life could I ever have thought that I wouldn't be able to return home," she said.
Following her flight cancellation, Ms Rankin had written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Page MP Kevin Hogan in an impassioned plea for quarantine caps to be raised to allow stranded Australians come home.
"I used to work at Pacific Bay Resort in Coffs Harbour which I know had been shut down since the start of the pandemic and I know this is not the only hotel struggling," she wrote.
"My question is, why are you not helping these 20,000 confirmed Australians that are seeking to enter their own country?"
Following a national cabinet meeting on Friday, it was announced that NSW, Qld and WA have agreed to allow more people into quarantine in order to boost the cap on arrivals from 4,000 to 6,000 a week in stages over the coming month.
From September 28, NSW will increase its intake to 3,000 people a week.