Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has confirmed that nine out of the 11 new positive COVID-19 cases in the Northern Territory (NT) are her direct family members.
In an interview with ABC news on Wednesday morning, she said that it was a distressing time and that her family members currently in the Centre for National Resilience (CNR) in Howard Springs (eight of the nine) are “concerned for each other and themselves, ” especially since two are 5-year-old twins.
The other family member, McCarthy’s 65-year-old aunt, is currently in Royal Darwin Hospital, and the senator said she had no updates on her condition as it was early in the morning.
This comes after McCarthy’s 30-year-old sister, who was not vaccinated, flew to the Robinson River Community on Nov. 11 and tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 15.
It is believed she had been infectious in that community since her arrival, and potentially the source of the outbreak there.
According to NT Health, Robinson River currently has a first-dose vaccination rate of 77 per cent, while 60 per cent are fully-vaccinated.
McCarthy, a Labor senator for the Northern Territory and the Senate’s Deputy Opposition Whip, praised the four Territory land councils, the Aboriginal health sector, and Territory health clinics for their hard work in trying to get people in remote communities vaccinated.
However, she believes a communication misstep in the federal vaccination rollout allowed for misinformation from social media to overtake the government’s vaccination messaging.
“The vaccination, as we know, should have occurred earlier this year, and I put it down to a lot of communication or miscommunication across the country,” she said.
She explained that in February, she and the Australian Labor Party’s First Nation’s Caucus were briefed by the federal health department about the indigenous vaccine rollout, and she noted that she had to ask about a communication strategy for Indigenous Australian communities, given there are over 100 languages across the territory.
“That gap in that communication strategy…, I believe, has enabled the social media storm that we’ve seen with inaccurate information and messaging that has caused quite a fearful reaction to the vaccination,” she said.
The Epoch Times reached out to the Federal Department of Health (DOH) for comment on McCarthy’s allegations Indigenous resource material had not been generated as part of the vaccination rollout strategy but did not receive a reply at the time of publication.
According to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Australia currently has 250 living indigenous languages and 800 dialects that are often very specific to localities in the country.
The 2016 Australian census identified two of the main Indigenous languages spoken in the Northern Territory: Kriol and Djambarrpuyngu. Kriol is spoken predominantly in the Katherine region of the NT, where the current outbreak of COVID-19 is situated.
McCarthy also said that overcrowding is a “massive problem,” using the example of her sister flying to Robinson River and staying in three or four houses. This meant that there were 20 to 30 close contacts, and they all had to get tested.
In response to a question about how people can self-isolate when there’s such overcrowding, McCarthy called on the federal government to get housing into the region.
“If we could get housing in there right now, I would be pushing that straight away to the federal government and the NT government to work on that, but we obviously need the resources to do so.”
She added that the current focus is on the actual pandemic, but stressed to the federal government that “We need those houses now.”