Repatriated Aussie shares her journey from UK
THE second Julie Whitworth sat down in QF110, bound for Darwin from Heathrow, reality set in that she was finally going home.
"It was huge relief to know that it wasn't a, 'maybe you are going home' it was an 'I'm going home'," she said.
Ms Whitworth travelled to the UK earlier this year to spend time with her father who had stage four lung cancer. She missed his final moments but made it for the service.
Afterwards every flight she tried to book to return to Australia kept getting cancelled. To get to Heathrow in time for the first of eight repatriation flights, she was forced to fly from her base in Manchester, to Milan and then to Heathrow.
"It was just flat, flat go," she said.
"From boarding the flight in Milan, getting to Heathrow going through the border process, getting from T5 to T2, and then finding our way through the maze of T2 to where the gate number that I had to be at. I think I got there for about 11am, and that's when the plane was meant to take off.
"It was very, very stressful time to get on that flight."
She said she was struck by Darwin's heat upon landing, but was more overwhelmed at being in Australia.
"(It was) very hot," she laughed.
"It was like, we're on home soil and it was one single flight. There was n, get off here, get your luggage, transit to there. It was just from London to Darwin, you're on Australian soil and I was like, thank God.
"I knew that the process ahead of me was going to be a fortnight long, I knew all of that, and I was prepared for that. I was just really, really glad and grateful to be back in Australia."
Ms Whitworth said despite being part of the "guinea pig" group for repatriation flights, her experience at Howard Springs was phenomenal.
"From every other quarantine story I've heard, I think Howard Springs has got it right," she said.
"You have airconditioned rooms, you're brought meals every day. There's a television, you have a bed, you have shower. Some people in quarantine have a hotel room, that's it. We had a balcony.
"If you have to quarantine in Australia, that's the place to go."
She said people underestimated how desperate Australians were to get home, and that their time was abroad was the opposite of a "holiday".
"A lot of people look at us like, oh you were there on holiday and you were doing this and you're doing that," she said.
"No, my family needed me. My mother needed me. She lost the love of my life after 50 years of marriage … Even though I had close to four months with my mum. I didn't get to go anywhere or do anything. We were pretty much locked in."
Ms Whitworth thanked staff at Howard Springs, and was eager to board her flight back to South Australia via Brisbane.
Originally published as FINALLY HOME: Repatriated Aussie shares her journey from UK to Darwin