21 May 2023

First impressions last the longest, can Australia do better?

| Ross Solly
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Australian Border Force uniform

Australian Border Force: sure, it’s a tough job, but they may leave some visitors with the wrong impression. Photo: Australian Government.

First of all, an update from my recent column that laid bare the trials and tribulations involved in preparing a teenage boy for a week of cadet camp.

You might remember that in the lead-up to the camp, many parents became very concerned their lads were, quite frankly, a tad gormless. They were also refusing to take jumpers or ground sheets because they were decidedly not cool. In at least one case, the jumper was considered too scratchy.

Well, I’m happy to report that the same number of boys who departed also returned which, in many estimations, would already make this camp an enormous success. The jumpers, it turns out, were very useful in the single-figure climate.

Are these lads likely to form an intimidating second line of defence behind our nuclear-powered submarines if we ever need to protect our shores? I’m not so sure, but at least they will be warm.

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Speaking of intimidating, I hope our younger generation never gets sent off to do work experience with the good folk at Border Force. I know they’ve got a tough job to do and everything, but maybe it would be nice if they could be a little bit more welcoming to visitors coming to Australia for the first time.

I’ve noticed this for a long time, and it’s not getting any better.

I’ve witnessed Border Force officers screaming at hapless tourists for getting in the wrong lines, not filling in their forms correctly and generally looking confused.

Yes, I get it. Standing at an airport all day would be very tiring, trying to direct thousands of tourists through immigration checkpoints, baggage halls and customs. And yes, I also get it. A lot of tourists can be very annoying.

But it’s a terrible first impression for overseas visitors, many of whom have just spent the best part of a day packed like sardines in economy class, eating rubbish airline food and trying to sleep on angles that their bodies were never designed to accomplish.

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You know the scene. Maybe it was you. Stumble out of the aeroplane that smells like bad odour, and has done for the past eight hours, wearing clothes you’ve been wearing now for more than a day, most probably with a new stain down the front from whatever that was you were served for dinner on a tray that was nowhere near big enough to fit everything on.

There are people everywhere. Most are like you, shuffling along hoping that eventually they will be able to stand up straight again and their knees will stop making that strange clicking sound.

There are lots of signs everywhere, but your eyes are bleary and caked with wax, and if you don’t speak English, they may as well spell out the recipe for Nanna’s famous Hungarian goulash.

So you follow the crowd. Except that crowd is going to an area you are not supposed to go. And there up ahead is a person in a uniform. Probably one of those laid-back Aussies you’ve been hearing all about, so you approach for assistance.

Except this is no knock-about good-time Aussie. This is a tired and cranky official who takes his or her job very seriously to keep our border safe.

So you cop a bollocking. A very public takedown. All because you became confused and ended up in the wrong queue.

First impressions last the longest. Is this really the type of welcome we want to put on for our visitors?

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HiddenDragon8:53 pm 23 May 23

“I’ve witnessed Border Force officers screaming at hapless tourists for getting in the wrong lines, not filling in their forms correctly and generally looking confused.”

This is the sort of thing that happens when you give people their own reality TV show – some of them even end up thinking they’re qualified to run the free world, or they just do stuff like this –


Slow news day, Ross? Nothing to see here, folks. move on.

Border Force are our first line of defence for idiots bringing in harmful products, seeds, food, bugs that if inadvertently released into the wild could decimate our flora and fauna. If some of them appear cranky, deal with it

TruthinMedia7:45 am 23 May 23

We are not alone in this, try LAX and other US points of entry.

Very true, LAX is not welcoming and the immigration queues are very long.

Arriving in Mexico City, on the other hand, is very different. I was amazed to be met by friendly volunteers in the line helping anyone who didn’t speak Spanish fill in the forms. The Mexican immigration officials were just as bored, but civil, as most of their counterparts in other countries I’ve visited.

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