• Barkindji Elder and former chairman of the Local Aboriginal Land Council David Clark is sheltering in place in his hut on the edge of Wilcannia. ((Supplied: David Clark))Source: (Supplied: David Clark)
Elder David Clark calls his hut the 'Republic of Barkindji' but it's now a shelter from the COVID storm as Wilcannia's crisis grows.
By
Sarah Collard

Source:
NITV News
30 Aug 2021 - 5:28 PM  UPDATED 30 Aug 2021 - 9:03 PM

David Clark has lived in Wilcannia, in far-west NSW, for most of his 74 years.

For the past six years, his homemade abode, three kilometres outside of town, has provided him shelter and safety. 

David's home on the banks of the Baaka River has become an oasis of isolation, as many of the town's residents hunker down with friends and family — unable to physically distance in their homes. 

"Right now, I can say quite categorically that I'm in the best place in Australia. In my fight against COVID, I am going to do my part," the Barkindji man told NITV News. 

He said his home,  built on land owned by the local Aboriginal Land Council, is a sanctuary.

"I said 'let's go and build our huts and go back and live on the land like we did before.'" 

"The first thing I see is is a wild goat and sheep that comes... in the mornings, and the birds that I put seeds out for, and I see a beautiful sunrise every day." 

David says his ability to isolate is a privilege, one which many in the town's community do not share.

"The housing crisis situation in Wilcannia is a massive concern here... (it) has been a concern for decades and decades," he said.

'You must get vaccinated'

David was in Broken Hill visiting family when the state-wide lockdown was announced, and took his opportunity then to be vaccinated. 

'I got the needle there... I saw it was infecting kids and young ones. Vaccines are the only thing we have now that this thing is getting everywhere." 

The Elder says he had concerns about the vaccines himself. But as the virus clusters grow across New South Wales and Victoria, he is urging all Indigenous people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities.

"Forget about your worry. And take the leap. You must get vaccinated. "

David says he still remembers the devastating toll previous diseases had on the community, before widespread vaccination programs began.

"I can remember when all the other diseases that came into our community, especially when we were kids, our mothers and fathers would drag us up to the doctors to get the needle."

10 per cent of  Wilcannia residents infected with COVID

The COVID crisis in regional and remote New South Wales is growing, with many smaller communities lacking the resources of larger towns and cities. 

On Monday, health authorities confirmed an Aboriginal man in his 50s died in Dubbo hospital, while a number of First Nations people are being treated in hospitals and ICU wards across New South Wales.

Wilcannia is one of the worst hit areas: the town of less than 700 residents has recorded 73 cases, over ten per cent.

The local hospital has no acute care beds and the nearest town is 200 kilometres away.

Western NSW records first COVID-19 death
A Dubbo man has died as the state's coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen and spread in vulnerable communities.