$200k raised for family in one night


The Australian public raised more than $200,000 in a matter of hours on Thursday night for a family whose four children are desperate to see their dying father.

Mark Keans, 39, has terminal cancer and is currently at his home in Brisbane. His last wish is to see his kids, who live in New South Wales.

The family made headlines on Thursday after the Queensland government refused its repeated pleas for a border exemption, sparking outrage across the country.

Mr Keans was told he would have to choose just one of the four children to see him.

There was some better news for them in the evening, as the state government relented and said all of them could drive across the border. But that came with a major catch - they would have to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine and pay a whopping $16,000 in fees.

After that fortnight in quarantine, the children would be dressed in full PPE before being taken to see their father.

"My wife turned around and says, 'So what, you're expecting us to pay more money to visit him than what it's going to cost to bury him?'" the children's grandfather, Bruce Langborne, told Seven News.

"We understand and sympathise that this is a very difficult time, and there are challenges," a spokesperson for Queensland Health told Seven.

"We are in the midst of a global pandemic and we need to protect our communities, especially the most vulnerable members.

"We understand the health directions in place are strict, but they are designed to protect Queenslanders."

A few hours later, something astonishing happened.

A GoFundMe page set up for the family, with a goal of raising $30,000, was set up in the evening. Before midnight, having been featured on Sky News, it had blown away that target and passed $200,000 - including a $1000 donation from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"Honestly, the last two days have been the biggest shock," Mr Keans' sister Tamara Langborne said in an interview with Sky News host Paul Murray.

"We went from being nobodies to being so heard that I don't know how I feel. It's astounding."

Murray asked how her brother was coping with the situation.

"He's struggling. His major wish when he got diagnosed was that he just wanted his kids. And since the day he was diagnosed, we'd just been fighting and fighting, and we just weren't getting heard.

"I think that made it a lot worse, because it didn't look like anything was going to happen. It was the impossible. But we're starting to get a voice, and it's reassuring."

Mark Keans and family. Picture: Nine. Source:Supplied
Mark Keans and family. Picture: Nine. Source:Supplied

Murray urged his viewers to donate to the GoFundMe page. When it passed $100,000, he got Ms Langborne back on air to share the good news.

"If you are able to get to Queensland, you will well and truly be able to pay for hotel quarantine and anything else you need for the next little while," he said.

"I honestly checked like, five minutes ago and it was at a thousand, and now it's at over $100,000," she said, clearly overjoyed.

"I am so thankful. Thank you everyone, so much. It honestly means so much to us. Thank you."

"On a night when we had our hearts broken, thank you. Thank you for doing what you just did. That is magnificent," Murray told his audience.

The comments from donors on the GoFundMe page were full of compassion for the family, and contempt for the Queensland government.

"I donated because we, unlike the Queensland Premier, are compassionate people who do not want to see Mark's children suffer for the rest of their days by being unable to visit their dying father. Truly unaustralian and shameful behaviour by the state government," said Damien Dakin.

"These children need to see their dad at this tragic time, without a huge financial burden hanging over the family. This whole situation is insane and the politicians and bureaucrats responsible need a huge great kick in the backside," Kim Bax said.

"This story has really touched me and I hope there are many others out there that have the compassion and humanity to help this family, unlike our supposed state leaders," said Matthew Shedden.

Mr Keans is not expected to survive beyond Christmas.

He had previously been asked to choose which of his children to see as only one of four will be able to cross the border to Queensland where he is stuck.

Mr Morrison was asked to intervene in the tragic case which sparked outrage over coronavirus border closures in Queensland that have been the subject of pain for many families.

Earlier, Mr Langborne, said the kids "desperately want to see him".

"They told us we were being selfish - and we weren't taking into consideration the other cancer patients," Mr Langborne told 7News.

"I have no idea how you pick and choose which child goes.

"We're bashing our heads against brick walls."

Outspoken Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has become the latest vocal critic of Queensland's hard border closure.

Speaking to Today this morning, she hit out at Ms Palaszczuk's decision to deny the family a border exemption.

"I think this is just being cruel now. There is no compassion in this whatsoever," Senator Lambie said.

"I don't know what Palaszczuk is trying to prove…it seems that they let people through their borders to suit them.

"They're not coming from a hot spot, what is the problem? Look at the faces of those kids for goodness sake, this has gone way too far."

Mr Langborne said his family had refused to choose which child could go and visit their father.

"We've said none," he said.

"Basically, we could not pick one over any of the others. It's impossible. Every one of them deserves it... It's easier to pick the adults, which adults to go and not to go but it wouldn't be the children."

Today host Karl Stefanovic added there needed to be a better system in place.

"When you have a family choosing which child should say goodbye to their father, their dad, it's gone too far. Just too far," he said.

"Grant the exemption. The Premier is not heartless. She needs to streamline the system while protecting Queenslanders.

"There is a medium. Find it. Let these kids say goodbye and let a dying man say goodbye."

Ms Palaszczuk recently said she was unable to visit her dying uncle.

"My uncle was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and I couldn't go and visit him in the hospital," she said.

The issue was raised by Opposition leader Deb Frecklington in Queensland parliament, who said the family "may have had more luck if they were in the AFL or crew on a superyacht."

However the Premier was having none of it, saying: "If Queenslanders had listened to the LNP when they asked for the borders to be opened 64 times, we may have been in the situation of Victoria."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard also said he felt "supreme anger, at the Queensland Premier's decision, which in my view is nothing more base loopy politics. I'm appalled."

It comes as Newcastle man revealed he doesn't know when he will be able to see his newborn daughter due to harsh restrictions.

Fly-in-fly-out worker Chris Bennett, who is based in Wangi Wangi, welcomed his first child, Adalyn, with his partner Laura Goff seven weeks ago.

After spending six weeks at home, Mr Bennett, 27, had to go back to work in the mines at Moranbah in North Queensland and has spent the last two weeks in quarantine in a Brisbane hotel, where the mandatory cost is $2800.

"Every day I get up and I listen to the TV to see if they've given a date yet (to reopen the border) or allowed any extra exemptions," Ms Goff, 29, told the Newcastle Herald.

"They've just let a whole football code go over the border and stay in a hotel, with their wives having cocktails with each other not social distancing at the swim-up bar, and Chris is in quarantine and I'm trying to take photos and videos of our baby smiling for the first time so he is not missing out.

"I feel like there is an easier way than making an Australian pay $2800 for quarantine (to cross a state border)."