NT COVID Outbreak Captures Residents of Binjari and Rockhole Community for Two Weeks of Hard Shutdown in Hot and Crowded Homes | MCU Times

NT COVID Outbreak Captures Residents of Binjari and Rockhole Community for Two Weeks of Hard Shutdown in Hot and Crowded Homes

The first thing Kevin Rogers wants you to know about his home community Rockhole is that it’s a “wonderful place”.

“Rockhole is about 13 miles from Katherine township along the Katherine River,” he said.

“It’s a quiet place, it’s a wonderful place.

“We have families, children running around – more children than adults.”

The Aboriginal community of about 130 people is now in a fierce barrier after nine COVID-19 cases were discovered in neighboring Binjari, just across the river.

No one in any of the communities is allowed to leave their homes or their patios.

The outbreak is now at 35, with three people in the hospital.

Authorities are preparing to find “many” more cases in Binjari and Rockhole, saying the tough restrictions are necessary because the threat to life is “extreme”.

At the time Mr Rogers spoke to ABC over the weekend, the case numbers were not known, but he was already very concerned.

Two of his family members had been taken to Howard Springs as close contacts in a positive COVID-19 case.

The house with the broken fence

Kevin Rogers says he is concerned about his community’s vaccination rate. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Mr. Rogers loves his community, but the housing is not good.

His neighbors refer to his place as “the one with the broken fence”.

His house is a three-bedroom house, but he said at least eight people lived there.

Most of them sleep on the floor in the living room.

“You know, all these houses were all built back in 1982, like that once.

“There are only three bedrooms and a large crowd of people living together. We do not know who we are going to talk to now about getting a new house, a big house, houses with four or five rooms you know.”

Kevin Rogers is 63 and undergoes dialysis three times a week.

He has seen the news of the outbreak on television at the clinic.

“Every time I go back Monday, Wednesday and Friday and it always talks about new cases in the Northern Territory,” he said.

“We have heard so many times abroad that many thousands of people, probably millions of people, lost their lives, and now it is almost close to local communities right here that we need to educate, especially our young people, about what COVID -19 is. “

He is worried that the message will not get through.

“It’s very difficult for these families to understand,” he said.

“They just live every day as if nothing has ever happened.

“I tell them, it’s really a serious matter, we have to take care of ourselves and our children.”

Family is family, but they are not vaccinated

Aerial view of Rockhole's original community
Rockhole, a community located about 15 miles from the town of Katherine, is home to about 130 residents. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Sir. Rogers is double-vaccinated, but he does not think many people in Rockhole are.

Local Aboriginal health provider Wurli-Wurlinjang said the vaccination rate in Rockhole was “lower than Binjari”, which was 38 percent, but a number of doses delivered over the past few days would have improved rates in both communities.

Mr. Rogers knows that some of his family have not been vaccinated.

On Saturday, he said he was considering throwing them out unless they were going to get a vaccine on Monday or Tuesday of this week.

“We have to help each other if they want to live in my house. They have to do the right thing.”

But Rockhole was locked down before that, Saturday night.

He said police first came in, followed by the nurses Sunday morning.

Sir. Rogers said he was not only afraid of his immediate family, but of friends and family in Binjari, and also everyone else in the territory.

“I’m scared not only of myself but of everyone, not just black guys,”

Governments disagree on housing responsibility as the COVID crisis threatens

A living room in an old house.
At home in the remote community Rockhole is dated and crowded. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Last week, when COVID spread for the first time in the territory’s Aboriginal community, authorities were quick to acknowledge that it was predominantly spreading in crowded household and family groups in the Katherine and Robinson River.

The housing situation in the territory is extremely complex, especially for those in remote communities and in the homelands of Aborigines.

Despite countless promises and significant investment in recent years, the roll-out of new homes and upgrades to existing ones have been marked by significant delays and disagreements between government levels over who is in charge.

Binjari is part of the NT and Australian government-funded remote housing program, a $ 1.1 billion co-investment over five years.

It has received three new public housing units since 2016, and three more are planned: The government’s accountability website notes that 16 housing units out of the 39 in Binjari are “overcrowded”.

Eleven Binjari homes have been approved for Room To Breathe extensions (new rooms, new living spaces), but work has not started on any of them yet.

Meanwhile, the Rockhole community is considered a homeland, meaning it receives only a modest amount of funds for repairs and maintenance from the Northern Territory government.

In 2019-20, it was around $ 178,000 for municipal services (like waste, electricity and water) and $ 74,000 for housing maintenance.

It’s for the entire year and covers more than a dozen homes in Rockhole plus administrative costs.

The NT Department of Housing did not respond to a request before the deadline to confirm whether Mr. Rogers was right in saying that no new homes had been built in Rockhole since the 1980s.

The NT government is currently at odds with the Australian government over who is responsible for building new homes in the home country.

NT’s remote housing minister, Chansey Paech, wants the Commonwealth to step in and fund them.

The federal government has previously said that it is a responsibility that belongs to the NT.

NT Prime Minister Michael Gunner said yesterday that ADF staff would help manage parts of the situation, although the nature and extent of their role is not entirely clear.

NT police enforce community shutdown rules and cooperate with other agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Sir. Gunner said yesterday that some form of lockdown – either hard lockdown or the less restrictive schemes – would be in place for at least two weeks.

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