For many of us, everything outside of where we live is across the other side of the bridge.

–Toni Mia Scallora

My name is Toni Mia and I live in Tooleybuc, a small town with a couple of hundred people in NSW which has a bridge that crosses into Victoria.

I am a Year 11 VCE student and I’ve been going to school in Victoria since Year 7 because it has more subjects. It’s a 45 minute drive to school on the bus, but on the back-roads it takes about an hour.

All of my activities involve crossing the border into Victoria. I’ve been involved with NOVO Youth Council in Swan Hill. I am an Ambassador for Swan Hill Youth Arts Festival. My lessons for dance, singing and guitar are across the border. Even our netball team based in Tooleybuc regularly travel across the border to play other teams.

When the border closures were first announced, the Tooleybuc Bridge was closed off meaning it was a 70km detour to get across the border, rather than a short walk or drive across.

With these restrictions, we’re more isolated from our nearest regional centre being in Swan Hill. It has the necessities, the supermarkets, and most of my friendships are mostly based on the Victorian side.

I’m not sure how I’ll be able to go to school this week. The principal and vice-principal have said that they will find a way to get us to school and will try to organise a bus, but there are so many kids like me across the border.

For medical appointments we can go to Balranald, but there are no x-rays, ultrasounds and other essential specialist supports for young people.

Until this weekend when they re-opened the bridge, we couldn’t even get our mail at the moment because our post office box is across the border, so it was a 100km drive one-way.

To stay in touch with friends, I have been using social media because it is so powerful. Personally I deleted Snapchat, because it took up too much of my life, but I have still been texting, calling and Instagram DMs to stay in touch. 

I really hope that as many border crossings can be manned on both sides of the border, especially in smaller border towns where a detour means disruption across our entire lives.

This has been such a difficult time for border communities because for many of us, everything outside of where we live is across the other side of the bridge.

Toni Mia is a 17 year old student from Tooleybuc who is active on NOVO Youth Council for Swan Hill Rural City Council.