Amber Ellis' mission to get her family home to Mandurah

The last time Amber Ellis was in Mandurah was for her 'gender reveal' party in December.

Surrounded by family and friends, the 27-year-old was giddy with joy to find out she was expecting a baby girl.

During that time of elation, no one could have predicted that she was about to embark on the hardest year of her life and that returning to Mandurah could become something so far from her reach.

"We were so happy and we had no idea of everything that was about to happen," Ms Ellis said.

After celebrating a beautiful Christmas with her family and friends in Mandurah, Ms Ellis and her fiance Thomas Pedersen returned to their current hometown in New Zealand.

That's when their world started shaking.

The COVID-19 pandemic took New Zealand in its grip and weeks later they started fearing for their baby's life.

As if that wasn't enough, Mr Pedersen was made redundant from his dream job as a pilot for Virgin Airlines and they were forced to call off their wedding.

As Ms Ellis' world crumbled before her eyes, all she wanted was the support of her mum, Sandy Ellis, who runs Zoo Bridal and Hire A Runway in the Mandurah Marina.

Amber Ellis with her mum, Mandurah businesswoman Sandy Ellis.

Amber Ellis with her mum, Mandurah businesswoman Sandy Ellis.

"I just want to see my mum. I just want my family to be able to meet my baby. I just want to be reunited with my family," Ms Ellis said.

"I just really want to go home to Mandurah."

'So disheartening when flights are constantly cancelled'

Ms Ellis became a familiar face in Mandurah herself when she worked in the upmarket bridal store for four years.

She hopes to work there again one day soon but so far every attempt to get home has been thwarted.

Her family has an exemption to come back to WA but thanks to caps on international arrivals prompting airlines to prioritise business class passengers, the first three flights she booked were all cancelled.

I spent half the day crying today. It's just an endless tunnel, with no light at the end at the moment.

Amber Ellis

Now she is begging for help from airlines and the Australian government.

"I don't know how we can get home any sooner," she said, her voice faltering during an online call with the Mandurah Mail.

"I feel there is no end in sight, I get so disheartened when flights are constantly cancelled, one after the other.

"I spent half the day crying today. It's just an endless tunnel, with no light at the end at the moment.

"I'm willing to do pretty much anything to get home."

Meanwhile all she can do is dream - of being at home in Port Bouvard with Sandy.

"Ideally we would love to set up there, to be back on the beach and enjoy everything I got to enjoy as a kid, the beaches, the fishing, all the cool things you can do in Mandurah."

A 'premmie' in a pandemic

The hardest part of this year was the harrowing experience of her little Indigo's premature birth and everything that has accompanied it.

"Under any circumstance, having a newborn baby can be tough," Ms Ellis said.

"When you have a baby in a pandemic it's one thing, but when you have a premmie baby who is touch and go, that's awful.

"It's been a hectic journey and I wouldn't wish it on anyone," Ms Ellis said.

They certainly didn't have a textbook pregnancy or birth and doctors say Indigo is an "absolute miracle baby".

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When Ms Ellis was 30 weeks pregnant she was admitted to hospital because she was bleeding and was told her placenta had started abrupting.

It was just the start of many long days and weeks in hospital.

Back at home during bed rest, her waters broke and her local Hamilton hospital ran out of ICU beds.

Things got hectic as medical staff prepped Ms Ellisin case they needed to do an emergency C-section, and Mr Pedersen was flown back on a last-minute emergency flight.

Amber Ellis' first cuddle with baby Indigo.

Amber Ellis' first cuddle with baby Indigo.

Meanwhile New Zealand had closed its borders so her mum couldn't be with her.

And the country went into level four lockdown, which meant only supermarkets and essential businesses were open.

She was lucky her labour was able to be stalled until she was 34 weeks pregnant, at which point her waters broke, still more than six weeks early.

But with lockdowns and strict 'no visitor' rules for hospitals, it meant she was on her own - not even her partner was allowed in until she had been in labour for four hours, had started dilating and was considered to be in active labour.

With lockdowns and strict 'no visitor' rules for hospitals, it meant she was on her own - not even her partner was allowed in.

"That was the hardest," she said.

When Indigo was born, she was put onto oxygen and Mr Pederson was able to hold the newborn's hand for barely a minute before she was whisked off to intensive care.

He wouldn't be able to see his daughter again until she was discharged, he was told.

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Ms Ellis didn't see Indigo for a tedious five hours after labour and wasn't able to hold her until two days later. Mr Pedersen finally got to meet her again when she was seven days old but didn't see her for another six days after that.

Facing four weeks and $8500 in quarantine

All that is behind them now and Indigo is a healthy baby, triple her birth weight.

But she will be at least eight months old before she can meet her grandmother and her great grandparents.

They are all desperately praying that the next available flight on November 12 won't be cancelled also.

If it goes ahead, they will be forced to endure a double quarantine - two weeks each in Sydney and Perth - which they are happy to do to get home in time for Christmas.

On top of astronomical flight costs, Ms Ellis and Mr Pedersen are looking at an additional $4000 of quarantine fees in Sydney and about $4500 in Perth.

"It would all be worth it," Ms Ellis said.

"My granddad is just dying to see her. And any time I speak to my Nan on the phone, she is in tears."

Her grandparents, Rosemary and Ian Sherriffs have lived in Mandurah for close to 20 years and their entire apartment complex in the Mandurah marina is receiving updates on baby Indigo.

Grandparents Rosemary and Ian Sherriffs have lived in Mandurah for close to 20 years.

Grandparents Rosemary and Ian Sherriffs have lived in Mandurah for close to 20 years.

"They have missed all that baby stage," Ms Ellis said.

"It's hard to feel happy all the time when there is that massive part of you that is always missing.

"I have my ups and downs. Sometimes at the drop of a hat I break down."

It happens most often when Indigo reaches a milestone and she doesn't have her mum there to watch it with her.

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States urged to take more returned Aussies

Ms Ellis is one of about 26,000 Australians stuck overseas.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has urged states to take more Australians returning from overseas through expanded hotel quarantine programs.

The federal transport minister wants the national weekly cap to rise from 4000 to 6000 in a bid to get more of the 26,000 people stranded abroad home.

Under Mr McCormack's plan, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia would lift state caps by 500 people a week.

Mr McCormack has written to premiers and chief ministers asking for their support ahead of Friday's national cabinet meeting.

"I want to make sure that more Australians can return home," he told reporters on Wednesday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made her support conditional on WA and Queensland each agreeing to take 500 more people a week.

WA Premier Mark McGowan criticised the deputy prime minister for going public with the proposal before national cabinet had considered it.

But he appears to be open to a higher cap, raising the prospect of Rottnest Island being again used to quarantine people.

Mr McGowan believes Commonwealth defence bases could ease the pressure on Perth's hotels but has cooled on calls for Christmas Island detention centre to be used.

Christmas Island is being used to detain convicted criminals.

The federal government argues defence bases are not suitable because of shared bathrooms and the risk of outbreaks.