COOBER PEDY News & Events

GRASS ROOTS ANANGU FALLING THROUGH COVID-19 GAPS IN FAR NORTH SA

This article is aimed at providing some perspective for the local community as to why Anangu from remote communities are pouring into our town in mid winter amidst a declared pandemic.

One of the many makeshift camps near the outskirts of Coober Pedy, with itinerants not able to be returned to their homeland due to a lack of comprehension and willingness to comply with the complex remote communities Biosecurity re-entry requirements

“Keeping communities safe from Coronavirus: Remote area travel restrictions” is the headline on the SA Government Covid-19 website.

The reality is that many grass roots Anangu cannot grasp the complex Covid-19 Biosecuty directives and are leaving the safety of their communities only to find that re-entry has a 14 day isolation requirement.

Anangu are required to willingly attend isolation facilities in Port Augusta and return to their homeland covid-free to await the lifting of restrictions on 17 September. For the Anangu this is just too complicated and seemingly unnecessary, as is social distancing.

Anangu are opting to camp out around the outskirts of towns like Coober Pedy that is a few hours drive from the APY Lands and a favourite stopover for alcohol. This easy access to copious amounts of alcohol to Anangu is telling us that the alcohol restrictions implemented in 2014 are no longer working effectively. Damages to local properties has flared up again and locals say the town looks like a ghetto.

Even though the Anangu may say and think they are isolating by camping out for 14 days, in reality they must provide proof of isolating before re-entry into their communities under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015 ie “to restrict travel into remote Indigenous communities, to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.

Specific Aboriginal communities ‘opted in’ to those restrictions to protect the vulnerable indigenous residents, however many of those residents seem oblivious to the requirements, not appearing to comprehend the seriousness of a potential outbreak.

This is not a homelessness problem, this is a bureaucratic undersight that has not taken into consideration how their complex ‘directives’ would be interpreted or processed by grass roots indigenous Australians.

Clearly there is a language and comprehension barrier coupled with a desire to access alcohol or travel for other reasons. To the credit of both Governments, SA Health, the Police and many other support agencies, Covid-19 has not made it to the Far North of South Australia.

This debacle is causing the displacement of dozens maybe hundreds of Anangu and is impacting severely on all government services in Coober Pedy that are not equipped to cope with the influx of intinerants travelling to access alcohol or for other reasons.

The reluctance by the health system to adjust restrictions while Covid-19 is in a ‘remission’ state, appears irresponsible considering the impost on small towns with very few service providers. Surely Covid-19 is not the only health risk associated with the gaps being identified in the structuring of remote communities restrictions.

Night time temperatures range between 0C – 7C during winter and local services are severely impacted. Some quick action is needed to close this disgraceful GAP before winter influenza and other virus’ begin to spread.

Restrictions on movement into Aboriginal communities

Movement into some remote and regional areas across South Australia has been restricted to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The decision came after National Cabinet provided in-principle agreement to the Commonwealth Minister for Health taking action under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015 to restrict travel into remote Indigenous communities, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Subsequently, specific Aboriginal communities ‘opted in’ to the restrictions.

Before entering or re-entering a designated area, a person must first self-isolate for 14 days and receive formal written permission (further information on this process is available in a separate Fact Sheet on this page). These requirements include residents of those communities.

The restrictions commenced from 11.59 pm on Thursday 26 March 2020 under the Biosecurity Act 2015 Coronavirus Determination. Since then, the Determination has undergone a series of amendments. As a consequence of amendment on 23 April 2020, Yarilena (near Ceduna) and Dunjiba (near Oodnadatta) were no longer designated areas. As a consequence of further amendment on 23 May 2020, Davenport (near Port Augusta) is no longer a designated area. On 15 May 2020, National Cabinet agreed to extend the Determination (and related restrictions) from 17 June 2020 until 17 September 2020.

Currently, restrictions apply to areas on which the following South Australian communities are located:

Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands
Gerard (Riverland)
Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) Lands
Nepabunna excluding Iga Warta (Flinders Ranges)
Point Pearce (Yorke Peninsula)
Yalata (Far West Coast)

For further information contact the SA COVID-19 Information Line on 1800 253 787.

Find more advice and resources for Aboriginal communities. https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/restrictions-and-responsibilities/restrictions-on-movement-into-aboriginal-communities2

Locals are saying that these public services are stretched to the maximum trying to cope with displaced Anangu in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic that so far has not reached the Far North of South Australia.

Coober Pedy Hospital and Health Services https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au
Coober Pedy Medical Practice https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au
SA Housing Authority https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/sa-housing-authority
Uniting Country SA https://www.ucsa.org.au/
Umoona Community Council Inc http://www.indiginet.com.au/umoona/goals.html
Coober Pedy Area School http://www.cooberpedy.sa.edu.au/
Djitji Tjapu Tjuta Community Day Centre
Australian Red Cross https://www.redcross.org.au/
Umoona Tjutagku Health Service Aboriginal Co. https://www.uths.com.au/
South Australia Police Station https://www.police.sa.gov.au
Aboriginal Family Support Services https://www.afss.com.au/
Department of Child Protection https://www.childprotection.sa.gov.au/
Umoona Aged Care Aboriginal Corporation https://www.agedcareguide.com.au
National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) https://www.niaa.gov.au/indigenous-affairs/community-safety/coronavirus-covid-19-support-measures-indigenous-australians
Far North Health Advisory Council https://www.facebook.com/Far-North-Health-Advisory-Council-191253748482101/

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