No house, no car, no job: Wollongbar family stranded
A FAMILY of two local teachers and their three children are currently unable to come back to Australia.
Wollongbar teachers Doug and Renee North, plus their three children Charlie, 13, Lara, 11, and Evie, 9, are currently in Canada, unable to return.
Mr North was on a teacher exchange in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Canada, with his family.
The program included swapping jobs, houses and cars with another family, and the exchange with the Canadian family ceased on August 7, when the Norths had flights booked to return to Australia.
But with airline seats becoming limited, they were bumped off their original flight.
The Canadian family was able to return home from Australia.
"Within 48 hours we were homeless, no car and without work," Mr North said.
The family is currently scheduled for a possible September 4 flight, but Mr North said they were expecting to be bumped from that flight as well.
"Airlines are restricted to 30 passengers, so fair enough they keep the higher paying passengers," he said.
"So we have also bought tickets with United Airlines ($25,000 worth) to increase the chances of getting home. That flight is for September 15."
The family is staying in a cottage on a small island close to where they were living.
"The kids have been great, however they crave social interaction," Mr North said.
"March 12 was the last time they played with kids their own age.
"We are frustrated, but quite happy and safe - which cannot be said for other Australians left stranded.
"There are others much worse off than us."
Mr North rejected the idea that Aussies were told by government officials to come back to the country back in March.
"The statement that we 'had the opportunity to come home' totally contradicts the advice we received right up until July 12 and I had a legally binding work contract so returning home is not something you can organise immediately," he said.
"When COVID started to escalate in March, my exchange partner suggested ending the exchange.
"The advice from the Australian Consulate in Vancouver was if we felt safe, had an income and access to shelter, then stay put.
"I also felt it not wise to travel during the pandemic (not knowing it would continue to get worse and be prolonged).
"We were in regular telephone contact with the consulate."