Australian Indigenous Community at Heart of Social Media Rumors Refute Claims

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
November 25, 2021 Updated: November 30, 2021

Two Aboriginal residents of Binjari and Rockhole, on the outskirts of Katherine, have posted on social media that claims circulating of forced vaccinations are untrue and that they are being treated with respect and dignity by authorities,  NT News reported on Thursday.

This comes on the back of claims on Twitter earlier in the week that army personnel were forcing residents to get COVID-19 vaccinations and taking them to the Howard Springs facility against their will.

The social media stories were in response to the current vaccination drive in Aboriginal communities, as well as the Northern Territory government request for aid from the defence personnel to assist with distributing food, COVID-19 testing, compliance with lockdown rules and transporting close contacts to Howard Springs for quarantine.

In one video post, an Aboriginal man said he received a call from an elder in Robinson River who was crying after everyone in his community had been forcibly vaccinated.

These claims have also been refuted by the Australian Department of Defence (DOD), who confirmed in an email to The Epoch Times that the claims of army personnel force-vaccinating and detaining people are “emphatically false.”

“Defence personnel currently supporting Northern Territory Government authorities cannot forcibly remove residents from their homes, forcibly vaccinate residents against their will nor forcibly prevent residents from filming or photographing events in public places,” DOD said.

Their response also stated that Defence is supporting the Whole-of-Government response to COVID-19, providing support as requested by states and territories through Emergency Management Australia. This support primarily focuses on COVID-19 testing, supporting measures to slow the spread of the virus and the welfare of the community.

“ADF personnel serve in a supporting role to State and Territory authorities and are not empowered or authorised to conduct any law enforcement activities,” the department added.

Similarly, Binjari resident Evonne Booth said on social media that the posts saying things about Binjari communities and the lockdown are untrue, NT News reported.

“If people wanna know what’s happening talk to us and our families and our mob. The army and police are not removing anyone against their will. There is no children getting forcibly vaccinated,” she said.

She added that parents are making decisions for their kids and everyone in the community is being treated with respect.

Suzie Andrews, a resident of Rockhole, also confirmed that none of those claims on social media are truthful.

“No one is being forced and held down to get that vaccination. We are being looked after and have a voice to people that can answer our issues,” she said. “We can ask the police and they are doing their best.”

In addition, Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service released a statement on behalf of residents from Binjari and Rockhole, saying the residents of those communities were hurt by the false comments being made about their situation.

“We don’t appreciate outside people making comments that are untrue. People on social media saying that our people are being mistreated need to realise their comments are hurting the very people they claim to care about,” the statement said.

“We have been treated with a lot of respect and appreciate all the support being given by these support personnel people.”

Meanwhile, the community Rockhole began transitioning from a hard lockdown to a lockdown at midday on Thursday due to negative COVID-19 tests and wastewater results.

According to NT Health, residents are now permitted to leave home for five essential reasons:  medical treatment, essential goods and services, work considered essential, one hour of exercise a day within a 5km radius of home, and to provide care and support to a family member or person who cannot support themselves.

However, the Binjari community will remain in a hard lockdown, meaning people can only leave home for medical treatment, in an emergency, or if required by law.

This comes as one new case was recorded on Thursday, a teenager from the Binjari community. He was a close contact of a previous case and has been in quarantine at the Howard Springs facility on the outskirts of Darwin.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the Northern Territory now stands at 50.

Steve Milne