06 July 2021

SUBJECTS: NT COVID lockdowns; Covid vaccine rollout in remote communities; Juukan Gorge inquiry.

SHAHNI WELLINGTON, HOST: Joining us now live from Larrakia Country in Darwin, supposed to be sunbaking up there, he reckons, but it's an NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. Malarndirri, welcome to the show. Is he right about that or what? 

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, LABOR SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY: Well, good morning. Big brekky mob. And I can tell you now I've got my jumper on. It's so cold. About 20 degrees! I don't know about that sunbaking you mob. 

WELLINGTON: Well, you know, he's doing his best up there. I'm sure you've got to be climatized a little bit. But, you know, up to up to now Malarndirri. Well, up until now, Malarndirri the territory has been, I'd say, incredibly fortunate during the pandemic. But last week's scare shows just how dangerous this virus is. How Territorians feeling after such a scare and such a rocky week? 

MCCARTHY: Relieved Shahni, we're certainly very relieved and and very thankful. You know, it was the first time we've had to lock down because of COVID in the community with the Tanami Gold Mines. And we were talking about 900 to over a thousand people just from that mining area who had to be tested. And then, of course, the snap lockdown across Darwin to begin with, Darwin and the rural areas, Palmerston. And we then obviously had to lock down Alice Springs. So we are incredibly relieved, very certainly very proud of the staff who are working in all those areas across the departments who are out on the front line ensuring that Territorians and those who were here from other states visiting, that they were safe. 

RYAN LIDDLE, HOST: Yeah, I was only there last week as well and just narrowly escaped the lockdown. I've got a family as well that work at the Granites, and it all seems to come up pretty quickly and pretty real. But we are seeing some positivity, though, with Utju and Maningrida communities getting their shots over the past few days. That must have been a mammoth effort. What's the latest with the roll out in remote communities and is it happening fast enough? 

MCCARTHY: Sure, Ryan. Absolutely. If anything, I think the lockdown has really encouraged all the mob across the Northern Territory to make sure they do go and get vaccinated. What we saw in Maningrida was just wonderful, you know, over 400 people in the community and that was one of the largest towns across the Territory to actually have the vaccination take place. And a huge, huge thanks to the Mala'la health mob out there. The workers just worked tirelessly. They had leaders and elders go out and around the community talking in language, explaining the importance of getting the vaccination. And that's why we saw what we saw. And we're certainly seeing that now starting to really occur right across the rest of the Territory. And it's fantastic. 

TYRONE PYNOR, HOST: And now, given all of these recent circumstances, it's turned out to be a very different NAIDOC Week in the NT. I mean, we've seen so many Territory events cancelled as well as the Alice Springs and Tennant Creek shows. How is the community keeping strong during this difficult time? 

MCCARTHY: I think we're pretty resilient. I think, I think Australians overall are resilient, but certainly First Nations people are certainly that. We've seen so many things come and go throughout our history and our lives and our families. And the most important thing is that we're still here, that we're working together, that there can always be another show day. There can always be another opportunity for NAIDOC. And probably for us mob with NAIDOC, we probably feel like it's like that every day anyway. And I know that those NAIDOC organisers will certainly make sure when the time comes that we're going to have the best party 

WELLINGTON: For sure.  

RAE JOHNSTON, HOST: Now, the parliament inquiry into the Jukaan Gorge destruction, that continues today. What can we expect? 

MCCARTHY: Look, they Jukaan Gorge enquiry where my colleagues, Senator Pat Dodson and Warren Snowdon are on that, and I know they're having hearings in the Northern Territory with McArthur River Mines giving evidence and also  Northern Land Council in relation to what what the inquiry is looking at over here. And that is just around the sacred sites areas around McArthur River Mine, so there are going to be more witnesses than the two of those, obviously, today. I think some archaeological and anthropological experts will also be giving evidence, but the inquiry is certainly calling on Australians to submit in terms of forms about what they can do, what the parliament, the Australian parliament can do to protect sacred sites across Australia, not just what happened in WA, not just what's happening in the Northern Territory, but right around the country. We need to be able to protect Aboriginal sacred sites in a much better way through legislation. 

WELLINGTON: We'll be sure to keep across that Malarndirri. There's still plenty going on up in the Territory. Thank you for your time today and make sure you keep rugged up up there ay.