Northern Territory Police Force Commissioner Jamie Chalker said that the restrictions imposed on the Binjari and Rockhole communities may negatively affect the residents' mental health. He told NT News: "We're conscious of the fact that this can have some impacts on people's mental health, as well as their general well-being."
The two communities are located southwest of the town of Katherine.
On Nov. 20, the state's Chief Minister Michael Gunner ordered the lockdown in two communities until Dec. 4. His mandate came after nine new COVID-19 cases were detected in Binjari. The Northern Territory's website states that for the duration of the lockdown period, residents must stay at home unless seeking medical treatment or in case of an emergency.
Gunner expressed concern over widespread overcrowding in the communities. He cited evidence of mingling between households and individuals from Binjari and Rockhole to defend his decision to impose the lockdowns.
With the expectation of more cases to emerge from both communities, the chief minister went one step ahead with the lockdown mandates. "Yes, these are strong measures – but the threat to lives is extreme," Gunner told reporters on Nov. 21. (Related: Western governments exploit COVID as an excuse for tyranny as Australia mobilizes troops to enforce virus lockdown.)
Chalker assured that food and essential services have been provided to Binjari and Rockhole residents. A rapid assessment team has also been deployed to help out with COVID-19 testing and vaccination. "Know that we are on the ground and we will be supporting you," Chalker said.
Three days before Gunner implemented the lockdown in Binjari and Rockhole, Australian Senator Malarndirri McCarthy revealed that overcrowding in indigenous Australian communities was a "massive problem."
She called on Canberra to build more housing in the region. "If we could get housing in there right now, I would be pushing that straight away to the federal government and the NT government to work on that, but we obviously need the resources to do so," McCarthy told RN Breakfast host Fran Kelly.
A number of indigenous Australians living in the two communities spoke to state broadcaster ABC, sharing how they will spend the hard lockdown while living in old and overcrowded residences.
Sixty-three-year-old Kevin Rogers, who lives in Rockhole, described his community as a "wonderful place." However, he acknowledged that housing there is not good. Rogers told ABC: "You know, all these houses were all built back in 1982."
Rogers' residence, dubbed "the one with the broken fence" by his neighbors, has three bedrooms. However, at least eight people live there – some sleeping on the floor or in the living room.
"Grandchildren, granddaughters, they all stay in my house. There are only three bedrooms, and [a] big mob of people live together. We don't know who to talk to now about getting a new house, a big house, houses with four or five rooms," Rogers said.
Two of his family members had already been taken to the quarantine facility at Howard Springs having been in close contacts with a COVID-positive individual. (Related: Australia building PERMANENT covid quarantine camps for "ongoing operations".)
"I just think about all the other people [in] the community, especially with the influx of kids and people that have come from other places that got stuck here," Slater said.
Pandemic.news has more articles about the effects of lockdowns on local populations.