• Wilcannia River Radio's Brendon Adams says he'd like to see action following the NSW Health Minister's visit to Wilcannia. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Residents in the far west NSW town are hoping to see action from the state government following a visit from the health minister Brad Hazzard.
By
Keira Jenkins

Source:
NITV News
8 Sep 2021 - 3:40 PM  UPDATED 8 Sep 2021 - 3:40 PM

Wilcannia local Brendon Adams told NITV News there was a mixed reaction to a visit from state Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday.

It follows Mr Hazzard's comments about a funeral held in the town prior to lockdown in the state's west, comparing it to an illegal party in Sydney. Mr Hazzard said he "regrets" any hurt caused by the comments.

Mr Adams said others feel the government attention has come too late for the community, which has been asking for support to prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak since March last year.

“As a community, we’ve been crying out to government to have a prevention process in place, locally… but no one listened to us,” he said.

“Now the world’s eyes are on Wilcannia because of the impact it has done.

“People are saying it’s a little bit too late, yes it is late. But I say it’s better late than never at this point.”

While visiting Wilcannia, Mr Hazzard said he was “shocked” at the lack of support in the community, saying the state government believed the Commonwealth was working to get the town prepared for any potential outbreak.

“I was shocked that the preparation levels had not been what I thought they were,” he said.

“The state understood that there was certain work being done up here already by the federal government.

“There had been a bit, but not as much as we really needed, and I think this particular virus is such a potent variation - the Delta variant - that once it gets into a community it’s very hard to stop.”

‘A lot more work’

Mr Hazzard said the COVID-19 outbreak in Wilcannia has highlighted the issues the town faces every day.

“There’s a lot of social disadvantage, a lot of people living in housing that just isn’t up to speed,” he said.

“We knew it before but I don’t think anyone realised how bad the virus could be on the basis of what’s existed in the past.”

Over the weekend, 30 motorhomes arrived in Wilcannia, touted as a solution to the challenges the community is facing, trying to isolate in overcrowded housing.

But Mr Adams is concerned that it’s a temporary attempt at damage control, rather than a sustainable solution for a problem the community has been crying out for help with for decades.

“Having these campervans is a good thing in a way, but I think they went down the wrong road when it came to bringing the camper vans in,” he said.

“I would have been aiming for those mobile demountable homes, those kit homes.

“The worst thing with the campervans is that once we get past this pandemic, those vans will get taken back.

“...And what that means is that we have the overcrowding crisis back again.”

Housing needs 

Mr Adams was one of the locals who met with the health minister during his visit, and said Mr Hazzard told him the government would be looking at solutions to the community’s housing crisis.

But Mr Adams said he will believe it when he sees it.

“I actually asked him, 'Is there any intention that health will be dealing with our social housing?'

"Because they ignored it when we did cry out for it,” he said.

“Now, what COVID has done, due to their lack of respect and their lack of prevention management for local communities, is it highlighted that.

“(The minister) said yes, they’re going to be looking into it. But we’ve heard a lot of that before with politicians.

“We hope that they will now address it.”

 

Mr Hazzard praised the efforts of the Wilcannia community in combating the virus, saying he’d do what he can to make sure the community has the resources they need.

“You’re very resilient people,” he said.

“It’s an amazing community, you will get through this and I will make sure that I do everything I can when I get back to Sydney to support what you need through our government here in NSW.”

While Mr Adams said the only way through this outbreak is by looking after our mob in the ways we can.

“We are the oldest living culture because we stay connected by looking after each other,” he said.

“This virus is so quick and the way it impacted on our community, we were so unprepared.

“I don’t want to see any of our other communities suffer what we have because we become complacent.

“Stay strong, stay safe and look after each other, proper way.”

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