By Andrew Lodiong and Jack Marx
Broken Hill kicked up its heels this week by drinking beer and getting hair done.
The explosion of joy was due to the lifting of COVID restrictions after months of lockdown, which officially ended for the double-vaccinated people of NSW on Monday.
For Esther La Rovere, owner of The Palace Hotel, seeing the bar full of happy patrons on Monday night was a breath of fresh air.
“It was pretty steady all night,” she said, “but really nice. Really positive.
“There was a big bunch of regulars, people who hadn’t had a beer together for a while, as well as people who’ve been in Broken Hill for a while and haven’t had the chance to get out at all.
“Mostly it was an atmosphere of people who haven’t seen their friends in ages.
“It was like; ‘Oh my God, I’d forgotten that I’ve got really nice friends!’
“Just a big sigh of relief.”
Celebrations of a similar calibre were underway at The Hair Strand out south, where the phone bounced off the hook as former clients needed to look good again.
“It’s very exciting for the clients and us to see everyone again,” said salon Manager, Tracy Gauci.
“We are booked solid for a few weeks trying to fit all our regular clients in.”
“We can only have a number of people in, and everyone has been very understanding of the wait times.”
Ms Gauci said the double-vaccination rules hadn’t appeared to have affected business too much, as only two of the first 200 calls did not have COVID-19 jabs.
“Ninety-nine percent of the clients I’ve rang are double vaccinated,” she said, “so it’s not been an issue.”
But it’s certainly been an issue for retired Broken Hill resident, Ray White, who was turned away from Kmart and Cheap As Chips last Monday even though he had proof he was fully vaccinated.
“It’s a slap in the face that they won’t accept a doctor’s certificate,” he said.
“If they won’t accept a doctor’s certificate, what is the world coming to?”
For those like Mr White, even essential services are difficult to access if one doesn’t have the right passport.
“To me it’s not reasonable,” he said.
“I was shocked, and I didn’t want to shoot the messenger, but I thought it was wrong.
“I walked away; I didn’t want to make a scene.
“I felt as if I was an undesirable and they didn’t want me in the shop.
“I have to go line-up at Centrelink to get my number so I can set it up, and I have to get my grandson to set it up on my phone.”
The same frustrations hit Bob Gosford, who came in to Broken Hill for a bit of retail therapy after having spent a long lockdown at his home in Silverton.
Despite having a doctor’s certificate showing a long list of vaccinations – including the COVID AstraZenica vaccine completed in July – Bob was told to take a hike.
“I was told this would be fine,” said Bob, referring to his medical certificate.
“It’s proof that I’ve been vaccinated, and I can’t find any official information anywhere that says otherwise.”
In fact, the official Services Australia website states explicitly:
“If you can’t get proof online, your vaccination provider can print your immunisation history statement for you.”
Nevertheless, like Mr White, Mr Gosford must now line up at Centrelink to find out when he can kick up his heels.
“A doctor’s certificate can get you a week off work,” said Bob, “but it can’t get you into a pub.