COVID-19: Voluntary return to country to be paid for

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Travel costs will be covered in the initiative.
Camera IconTravel costs will be covered in the initiative. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr

Aboriginal Corporations throughout WA are urging Aboriginal people to get back to the safety of country and community as soon as possible.

With the assistance of the Department of Communities, any Aboriginal person wishing to return to country will be supported through paid travel costs and up to $250 for food and supplies for their return.

Yuella Aboriginal Corporation will assist anyone wishing to return to country in the Mid-West, MEEDAC will support anyone in Geraldton, Emu Services in Carnarvon, Bloodwood Tree Association in Port Hedland and Yaandina Community Services in Roeburn.

Bloodwood Tree Association chief executive Kelly Howlett said they were contracted yesterday by the Department of Communities to provide assistance.

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“This program has only been in operation the past one and a half days, but has already assisted individuals and families to get back to Looma, Balgo and Bidyadanga,” she said.

“It is a voluntary program and only for those that want to their home community, there is also a requirement that the home community accepts/approves them returning to the community.”

The assistance measure comes as WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt warned the impacts of the coronavirus in our remote Indigenous communities could be severe, instituting bans on people entering the communities with penalties of up to $50,000 for those found to be breach the directions.

“It’s crucial that we do everything we can to protect residents living in remote Aboriginal communities against the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

“Aboriginal communities have some of the highest rates in WA of many of the health conditions that are known to pose potentially life-threatening complications in association with COVID-19.”

The assistance is for one-way travel and will cover all forms of transport, accommodation and supplies.

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