‘It’s special’: Regional Victorians thrilled at prospect of household bubble visits

They live 260 kilometres apart in country Victoria and they've been banned from visiting each other under COVID-19 restrictions.

And so six-year-old Lucia Sharples has been chatting with her grandparents, Jenny Skewes and Bob Sharples, once a week by video call.

Hello from Castlemaine: Lucia Sharples, with parents Marty Sharples and Nanda Gasparini, will soon be able to see grandma Jenny Skewes in person.Credit:Joe Armao

"It’s great, isn’t it?" says Lucia’s father, Jenny and Bob’s son Marty Sharples. "But it’s not the same as face to face and never will be."

Like many others, the family – one lot in Castlemaine and the other in Ventnor on Phillip Island – are excited that from Thursday, under the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria, they will be permitted to visit one another again.

Marty, 42, said that after the state government announced that social bubbles of two regional households were allowed "I immediately thought that Mum and Dad would be a good match, given they’re also in regional Victoria.

"It’s exciting, particularly for my daughter, I think. It’s really special because she misses her grandparents.

Bob Sharples with granddaughter Lucia back in July.

"She’d love to read them, in person, a story she wrote about foxes and take them on a bush walk."

Jenny Skewes, aged in her 70s, was worried whether she and Bob would be allowed to drive through Melbourne, which is still in stage four lockdown, to get to Castlemaine.

The alternative, to avoid Melbourne, would have been to take a lengthy loop through the Victorian Alps.

However, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said regional Victorians "are permitted to transit through metropolitan Melbourne en route to their destination," as long as they stop only for food or essential goods or services, to seek medical treatment or for work or study.

Ms Skewes is sad that she and Bob cannot yet see their other two sons, their spouses and five other grandchildren, who live in Melbourne.

And Marty said he did not know when Lucia would next be able to see her much-loved other grandma, who lives in Venezuela.

Another family looking forward to the regional household bubble are the Rowe family from Mildura, who have chosen as their buddies their relatives the Oldhams, who live 10 kilometres away.

Elizabeth Rowe, 18, said the two families, including six girl cousins aged 11 to 19, were already organising activities for this weekend.

Six cousins from Mildura pictured in Falls Creek last year. Top row: Isabel Oldham (left) and Elizabeth Rowe. Front row from left: Abigail Rowe, Olivia Oldham, Eloise Rowe and Maya Oldham. 

She said they were very close and before the pandemic would meet two or three times a week.

However, Gippsland resident Marianne, 59, who asked that her surname not be published, said she didn't feel safe yet to invite friends to her Warragul home.



Her council area, Baw Baw Shire, has one active COVID-19 case but some of her friends live in the Latrobe City Council area, which has seven active cases.

"Until I see these numbers reduce, I prefer to just meet friends outside for a walk or picnic, rather than in an indoor setting," Marianne said. "In other words, for our region, I don’t believe the risk is low enough for me to lower my guard, and organise a ‘bubble’."

One consolation was that as a health worker, Marianne has some social contact at her workplace.

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