NT UPDATE — 24 November 2021:
ARMY MOVES ON FIRST PEOPLES
An urgent development is unfolding in the Northern Territory.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel have been deployed in army trucks to ‘assist’ with a reported COVID outbreak in remote indigenous areas, it has been announced.
The remote community of Katherine and surrounding areas of Binjari and Rockhole have been placed into a hard lockdown, with Chief Minister Michael Gunner telling reporters that an operation has begun overnight that included a co-ordinated removal of positive cases out of the community.
“It’s highly likely that more residents will be transferred to Howard Springs today, either as positive cases or close contacts.”
“We have already identified 38 close contacts from Binjari, but that number will go up. Those 38 are being transferred now.”
An expanded rapid assessment team has hit the ground to begin contact tracing and around 30 personnel have been deployed from Darwin and Alice Springs to assist residents.
Gunner says in the video above that the “residents of Binjari and Rockhole no longer have the five reasons to leave their homes,” which included buying food and supplies, exercising for up to two hours, care or caregiving, work, or education.
Now, these restrictions have tightened until members of the community get vaccinated.
“They can only leave for medical treatment, in an emergency, or as required by law.”
The measures — the toughest actions deployed in the Northern Territory to date — will likely stay in place for the next 14 days.
Gunner said that he had contacted the Prime Minister last night and that they are grateful for the support of ADF personnel, as well as army trucks to assist with the removal of positive cases.
Under section 477 of the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015, people are currently prevented by police from entering and/or exiting the Robinson River and surrounding homelands.
The government has been aiming to reach a target of 80% fully-vaccinated by 20 December.
However, due to objection from indigenous communities, reaching this was now in doubt.
In fact, to achieve this, first doses would have to be administered this week.
Next thing we know, an ‘outbreak’ has come along and the army has been deployed to transfer any ‘threats to the community’ away to the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility.
A 14-day stay in a Northern Territory facility costs $2,500 for an individual, and $5,000 for a family. An additional 10 days adds $1,750 for an individual and $35,00 for a family
The Katherine region will remain in lockdown for days to come, as authorities await the results of more than 1,300 tests, amid concerns that the virus may have spread.
Health workers have begun door-knocking homes to boost vaccination rates in the communities, where Mr Gunner lamented rates were much lower than 70 per cent.
In the past 24 hours, 29 people have been vaccinated in Rockhole, with 27 of those receiving their first injection.
In light of protests on the weekend in Darwin and developments today, tensions are high in the state.
So much so, that it seems the pressure may be getting to Gunner.
GUNNER SNAPS AT OBJECTORS
Gunner took the opportunity to UNLEASH against those who object current mandates and increased focus on indigenous communities, in a truly stunning display during questions with reporters.
He labelled anyone who disagrees with mandatory vaccination as an ‘anti-vaxxer’.
“If you are anti-mandate, you are absolutely anti-vax. I don’t care what your personal vaccination status is. If you support, champion, give a green light, give comfort to, or support anybody who argues against the vaccine – you are an anti-vaxxer. Absolutely.
Your personal vaccination status is utterly irrelevant.”
This is the man at the helm of the Northern Territory’s COVID outbreak response.
Some commentators have suggested petitioning the Gunner government to enforce a 95% vaccination rate on remote communities.
The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance said it had to find out about Mr Gunner’s decisions from the media, a testament to the lack of consultation the regions themselves have had in this process.
What is really going on in the Northern Territory?
“THEY’RE KILLING OUR PEOPLE”
At present, as nobody is allowed in or out of the region, it is hard to tell entirely what exactly is happening with these residents outside of the statements released by authorities.
Not even those in the indigenous communities are able to get an understanding, it seems.
In the following video, one concerned resident calls for more transparency from the government and more communication from her peoples on-the-ground — which she says, has gone quiet.
Community elder, Mary, gives a picture of the distress and confusion currently in the region:
Vaccination rates remain considerably lower in remote indigenous communities across Australia with Aboriginal health groups announcing that they are ‘fighting pockets of vaccine hesitancy’.
Should the government be attempting to coerce an indigenous population against their wishes?
Hopefully more people with use the power of social media to broadcast their message to the world.
TOTT News will follow this development.
If anybody is in these regions, or knows somebody who is — our lines are open if you want to share any information for the country to see. We will get your message out.
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