Rodney Carpenter, director of the Jerrinja Land Council said tourists are ignoring regulations and seeking refuge in their holiday homes on the New South Wales South Coast.
“There’s a lot of tourists coming down here at the moment, they’re trying to escape what’s happening in the cities so what they’re doing is using their holiday homes to stay here for a couple of weeks.
“They’re going to the local Woolies and stocking up, then going back to their holiday houses.”
“It only takes one of us from community to go out to Woolies and bump into someone that sneezes, coughs - come back home not knowing and pass it on to the kids and the kids go and give Aunty and Uncle a cuddle (forgetting they shouldn’t). That’s what I don’t want to happen."
Living by the coast has given the Jerrinja mob the name “Saltwater People of Jervis Bay” however, their close proximity to the water means that their area is a hot spot for tourists.
The Jerrinja community is anxious that visitors entering the Culburra Beach region could be carriers of the coronavirus. Like many Indigenous communities nationwide, the Jerrinja mob is concerned that the virus would be lethal and create a domino effect.
“If it’ll hit community, it will hit community hard. Our bodies are just not used to viruses like that. Flu’s knock us around because our immune system is not strong like other nationalities. When we get viruses like this, we don’t do well with it and that’s what scares hell out of me."
Indigenous Australians are in the at-risk group of serious infection of COVID-19 due to higher rates of chronic illness compared to non Indigenous Australians.
Although there is a ban on non-essential travel under the NSW public health order which states, “taking a holiday in a regional area is not a reasonable excuse [for travelling]”, Mr Carpenter believes that over the last three weeks he has witnessed an influx of tourists.
“We’re not sure if they’ve got it or not. Every time we go out to Woolies there’s always line- ups, always a heap of tourists and we only recognise two or three people. When we go to the stock there’s nothing there.”
In these trying times Anglicare in conjunction with Coles has made donations to the Jerrinja community to help them over the Easter long weekend when panic-buying has become the new normal.
“The food’s great, who wouldn’t want hampers dropped off at your door whether you’re from community or not. It’s always good. It’s always stuff you need around your kitchen.”
“They dropped us off bags of fruit cups for the kids, noodles, canned food, pastas, sauces. When we’re struggling here, they’re always the first to help. They’re so good.”
The Jerrinja community is extremely thankful for the donation and pleased that it will limit their trips to the local Woolworths. Although, Mr Carpenter is still concerned that transmission of the disease could easily enter their community.
“We’re real close-knit with the Culburra community. We’re like a massive family and it feels like we’ve been overtaken, and we don’t know if they are carrying the illness.”
To keep their mob safe from the spread of COVID-19, roads that come in and out of the Jerrinja community have recently closed. This means that the community is only open to residents, essential services and carers.
As requested by the Jerrinja community, there has also been an increase in police presence in the region over the Easter long weekend.
“We’ve spoken to the police and they said they’re going to come out and police it a bit – check addresses.”
NSW Police have confirmed to NITV that they have given multiple warnings to travellers in the South Coast police district but, no fines were issued in the Culburra Beach and Jerrinja area over the Easter long weekend.
Police are currently monitoring those participating in unessential travel and have the power to deliver on-the-spot fines of $1,000 to those breaking the rules.