• Erub Island is one of the Torres Strait's eastern outer islands with a population of 300 people. | Pic: Kim Wirth (Kim WIrth)Source: Kim WIrth
A Torres Strait community has questioned a decision by the Queensland Police to deploy an officer to the remote island without prior quarantining and just one day after working in Queensland's capital.
By
Douglas Smith

Source:
NITV News
22 May 2020 - 2:27 PM  UPDATED 22 May 2020 - 2:39 PM

Community members of the Torres Strait’s Erub Island are questioning the decision of the Queensland Police Service to send an officer to the remote location for a routine visit a day after he worked in Brisbane.  

It’s alleged the male officer was working in Brisbane’s south the day before he arrived on the Island on Wednesday for a three-day visit. 

Erub Island resident Lindy Harvey told NITV News that she approached the officer after she noticed he was taking photos of paintings at the local Daito Tavern and asked where he had come from.

“He said, ‘would you believe, I was in Logan yesterday dealing with all the shit down there’, this is his exact words, ‘dealing with the shit in Logan yesterday, and I’m here on this island today in paradise’,” said Ms Harvey. 

"If there was a major incident on the island, like major, then you'd send two (officers) from TI (Thursday Island) that know our culture, that know our people, that know our rules and regulations. You don't send somebody from Logan who's never been up here before."

The Australian Government has restricted entry to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, with exemptions for police officers who are considered essential services workers.

Officers are exempt from the 14 day quarantine provided they meet a certain criteria, however, Ms Harvey and other community members said there was “no pressing need for him to be there”.

“All they were doing were random checks on cars, pulling people over and looking for unregistered vehicles, so it was really for no reason," she said.

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There's been no new cases of COVID-19 in Queensland over the past 24 hours, with only 12 active cases across the state.

Despite the low numbers, Erub Island residents remain concerned about the risk of any outsider potentially carrying the deadly virus entering their community.

The officer's visit was raised with Councillor Boggo Gela from the Torres Strait Island Regional Council on the day, who told NITV News he was “unaware” of the situation.

“The community is not feeling too pleased with what happened,” said Mr Gela. 

"Pretty much, more or less, they were just here to be present so the community can abide by the rules."

Mr Gela said the community is now on alert and he has notified the Island's nurse in case COVID-19 symptoms appear in residents. 

“If so, I think it’s urgent that we isolate them straight away because this guy has been in our community," he said.

"I've been in contact with him because I shook his hand, but at that time, I didn't know he was from Logan, I thought he was from TI."

Under the Torres Strait Island Regional Councils' visitor guidelines, Councillors must be given prior notice of someone's entry into a community.  

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