16 November 2021

LIZ TREVASKIS, PRESENTER: One of the two people in Robinson River, who has tested positive for COVID 19, the 30 year old woman is the sister of Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and the Senator joins us this afternoon. Hi there, Senator.


SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Good afternoon and good afternoon to your listeners.


TREVASKIS: This must be a pretty rough day for you seeing all of this unfold here in the Territory, around your your home, around the, around Borroloola and the Gulf. Can you tell us at all about how you sister is?


MCCARTHY: Well, certainly the last 24 hours has been incredibly stressful Liz, as you can imagine for not only the families in Katherine and Robinson, but also Borroloola and the surrounding regions. And as far as I know at the moment, you know, a lot of the family members, not just my sister, but also aunty and uncles and cousins are all in Howard Springs. And I think that's the best place to be to get the care that's required right now.


TREVASKIS: And sorry, people may have caught that in the news earlier, but I probably didn't introduce the full context there - all of those positive cases announced today, they're all your family members.


MCCARTHY: That's correct, Liz. Yes.


TREVASKIS: How are you feeling? This is terrible news.


MCCARTHY: Oh, it is. It's absolutely our worst fears realised. It's something that I've certainly been talking about from the beginning of this pandemic and so many other First Nations leaders and Aboriginal community health organisations have been talking about. And it is the worst of our fears realised. And one of the blessings, if I can say that is a lot of my family members from the Katherine region have been double vaxxed, Liz, so we've just got to see them pull through.


TREVASKIS: This is kind of tricky terrain because I guess we don't want to reveal people's identity. People do have private medical information that they don't necessarily want to reveal. But do you know from from these family members, if they if people had been vaccinated, if there was some hesitancy, if people had wanted to get vaccinated and not, do you know much of a picture there that you're comfortable to share with us?


MCCARTHY: Look, I'm reasonably comfortable with the fact that certainly in the Gulf region, there's been a real encouragement for people to get vaccinated. And I am enormously proud of people in the Borroloola and Robinson region for doing that. I've certainly travelled three or four thousand kilometres just through the Tanami desert in the Papunya, sorry, the Yuendumu region and others encouraging them to do the same thing. So there is a real take up of vaccination, certainly in the Gulf, and I'm enormously proud of that and I encourage those who still haven't been vaccinated to very much go and get vaccinated.


TREVASKIS: Can you sort of, can you take us into Robinson River? And I suppose even more remote than that, because it's not just Robinson River that's in lockdown, it is the homeland communities around Robinson River. We were hoping to get in touch with the Homeland Association, who looks after those nearby homelands this afternoon to get a sense of how well-prepared they are for a lockdown. Do you have any sense of that? People in homelands that live very remote rely on, you know, the occasional trip to a nearby sort of service centre. Are people going to be okay in lockdown in those homeland communities?


MCCARTHY: Look one of the incredible things about Robinson River is that it is a very organised community I have to say, and very proud of that. I know that many of them would have been very aware of what's going on just with the Katherine region. I'm aware that the shop itself is is fully stocked. I know that those people who are on outstations are very aware that there is a lockdown period here and people will sit tight. But of course, if they've got issues, whether it's other health issues, not COVID related or other emergencies, they'll also know who to call. It is a close knit community. It's very linked to Borroloola as well, Liz. It's is just a couple of hours drive east of Borroloola and you know, they've got families there and communication is is pretty strong between all the family groups


TREVASKIS: AMSANT this morning called for Borroloola to be locked down. The chief minister said there was no reason for that to happen at this point. Are you comfortable with the government response in relation to Borroloola or do you think Borroloola should be in lockdown?


MCCARTHY: Look, I certainly advised the health minister yesterday afternoon to lock down Borroloola. I certainly know that there has been a great deal of travel between Robinson River and Borroloola of families, and I've put that advice to the health minister and obviously the health minister and the cabinet have made their decision based on other information they've got, which I am not privy to. And let's hope that their decision is right.


TREVASKIS: Will you go back to them and ask again?


MCCARTHY: Well, they know where I stand, Liz. I think you can only say it once or twice, but it's important that Borroloola is locked down.


TREVASKIS: And the chief minister said that said this morning that movement is limited, and that was one of the reasons they didn't need to go into lockdown. What were your reasons for suggesting that Borroloola should go into lockdown?


MCCARTHY: Well, movements limited now, but we're talking about a case that's been in Robinson, in this case, my sister, since the 11th and that's last Thursday. So clearly, there's been movement of people and family groups since the weekend even into Borroloola and out of Borroloola to Robinson.


TREVASKIS: All right. Well, Malarndirri McCarthy, we're going to have to leave it there this afternoon. Thank you for sharing some of what your family has been going through and and we send everyone our very best wishes, of course.


MCCARTHY: Liz, can I just say and encourage people to make sure that they are providing all the information they can to authorities for contact tracing and just to encourage all Territorians, please just get vaccinated.


TREVASKIS: All right, Senate Malarndirri McCarthy there on ABC Radio Darwin.