• Protesters arrived on the outskirts of town, where they met with friends and family members, as well as Mr Katter from opposite sides of the border. (7 News. )Source: 7 News.
The Federal MP for Kennedy leads a protest in the Aboriginal coastal community of Yarrabah, calling for biosecurity restrictions to be dropped despite the risk of COVID-19 still prevalent to the community.
Douglas Smith

27 May 2020 - 10:56 AM  UPDATED 27 May 2020 - 10:56 AM

A protest in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah on Monday was led by local federal member Bob Katter, who was calling for restrictions to be lifted despite concerns that COVID-19 could still spread there. 

Dozens of community members arrived on the outskirts of town, where they met with friends and family members, as well as Mr Katter on the other side of the biosecurity zone.

Mr Katter, along with Yarrabah residents called for "freedom" and the community lockdown to be lifted so that they could travel without impediment to nearby Cairns to shop essential items.

However, Dr Jason King, the local GP at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, said the risk of Coronavirus was still prevalent for community and would only be heightened if the restrictions were lifted. 

“Most authorities are being watchful in terms of a risk of a second wave,” said Dr King. 

“This hasn’t gone away. Coronavirus is still here, even though some areas in Australia have done a good job of controlling the situation. That risk still emerges."

Dr King said lifting the current restrictions increased the risk to the community of exposure to the deadly virus, because people would have “uncontrolled” travel to Cairns for shopping and socialising. 

On Tuesday, protest organiser, Glennis Noble, told NITV News that residents were concerned about food security and getting access to essential needs' such as warm blankets and clothing for the incoming cold weather. 

“We do online shopping for food and clothing, but for the food, we don’t even get what we pay for," said Ms Noble. 

“We’ve got some pop up shops here but we’re paying an arm and a leg…paying three times [as much].”

Ms Noble said community members have been in lockdown now for about 60 days and she was concerned for people’s health and safety, but said “everyone should have a choice.”

“I’m a human being, don’t take my rights away from me,” she said.  

“We want to be let out like the whole of Queensland…. everyone’s just walking freely. 

“If anyone in Cairns can do what they want to do, even the blackfullas in Cairns, why can’t we?

Currently in Queensland, tough biosecurity measures have been implemented to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

“We want to be let out like the whole of Queensland…. everyone’s just walking freely. 

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Local Disaster Management Groups are responsible for lifting restrictions on communities, with the guidance and advice of the state government.

Mayor of the Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council, Ross Andrew, told NITV News, although the protests were done with “good intent,” the health and safety of the community was still “paramount.”

“There are major concerns in terms of the possibility of a potential COVID transmission into our biosecurity zone, so that’s first and foremost… paramount,” said Mr Andrew. 

“We hear the concerns in terms of what they’re raising, but we also have to bear in mind that we have to hear the concerns of those who are silent and are quiet so it’s a bit of a balancing act.”

Mr Andrews said the Local Disaster Management Group was working with the State and Federal Governments to develop a timeframe for lifting restrictions. 

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk said the concerns of community members in Yarrabah were “very actively being considered.”  

“We are actually considering some of those issues in our Queensland Disaster Management Committee meets this week,” said Ms Palaszczuk. 

“We’ll be making recommendations to the Federal Government because they are in charge of that Biosecurity Act...but I do think there are some cases, especially along the coast for some communities...to see those restrictions relaxed so they can head to their major centres.”

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