Restrictions on travel to remote Aboriginal communities – frequently asked questions

Fact sheet
Frequently asked questions about travel to remote Aboriginal communities.

Last updated: 3 July 2020 at 4.00pm

Restrictions on entry to remote Aboriginal communities remain in place to protect the health and wellbeing of residents. 

On this page you will find frequently asked questions on: 

  • Entry rules for remote Aboriginal communities 
  • Who can go into remote Aboriginal communities 
  • Requesting to have a community excluded from the entry rules. 

Can people now go into the Kimberley, Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku and East Pilbara?

Yes, from 5 June 2020 anyone can travel into those areas from within Western Australia. You don’t need police approval or to self-isolate for two weeks before you go there. 

However, there are still State Government rules about who can enter remote Aboriginal communities. 

And you still need an entry permit to go onto some Aboriginal Lands Trust reserves. 

Why are there still State Government entry rules for remote Aboriginal communities?

There are still entry rules for remote Aboriginal communities because on average Aboriginal people, especially those living remotely, have a higher risk of getting sick from the coronavirus than other Western Australians. 

If the coronavirus gets into a remote Aboriginal community, it would be a serious health problem for residents, especially older people and people who already have a medical condition. 

What are the entry rules for remote Aboriginal communities?

The entry rules are explained in the State Government’s Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions

The rules say that entry to remote Aboriginal communities is only allowed for: 

  • people who live or work there 
  • people entering for family or cultural purposes 
  • people entering to provide essential, community or human services or supplies, such as:  
    • food and fuel  
    • health care 
    • medical  
    • policing 
    • mail 
    • child protection  
    • education 
    • funeral services 
    • Centrelink 
    • play group 
    • governance/capacity building training 
    • Aboriginal ranger and conservation  
    • sports 
    • cultural activities, such as art, craft and dance
    • tenancy and property management 
    • employment or work programs 
    • native title and/or community business 

If none of these apply to you, you can apply for special permission to enter a remote community (see below). 

Some remote Aboriginal communities may have local protocols or other rules in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Even people who are allowed to go into remote Aboriginal communities should contact the community first to find out what rules or protocols apply.  

You need to use safe behaviours when visiting a remote community, such as limiting your contact with residents, to minimise the spread of illness. 

Are there any health rules for people who can go into remote Aboriginal communities? 

Yes. People who are allowed to go into remote Aboriginal communities can only enter if they:  

  • do not have any symptoms of coronavirus 
  • have not received a notice that they are a ‘close contact’ of someone with coronavirus 
  • are not waiting for the results of a coronavirus test 
  • have not received a positive result from a coronavirus test  
  • have not been exposed to the coronavirus in the two weeks before entering the community 
  • have not been overseas in the two weeks before entering the community. 

Community residents who are sick before they leave the community can return to their community if they:  

  • are away from the community for less than 24 hours, and 
  • do not come into contact with someone who has coronavirus while away from the community. 

You need to use safe behaviours when visiting a remote community, such as limiting your contact with residents, to minimise the spread of illness. 

If someone leaves the community and gets coronavirus while they are away, or comes into contact with someone with the coronavirus while they are away, what should they do? 

They should stay away and not go back into the community. This is because the coronavirus can spread quickly throughout the community, and other people may get very sick, especially older people. 

People who have (or think they have) been in contact with someone with the coronavirus should contact the nearest health service or clinic to get a test. 

People who have the coronavirus cannot go back to their community until they are cleared by an authorised health officer. 

People who need to stay away from their community can call the Disaster Response Hotline on 1800 032 965 for help with temporary accommodation. 

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? 

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to the cold and flu and can include: 

  • fever (sweats and shivering) 
  • cough or shortness of breath/difficulty breathing 
  • sore throat 
  • loss of taste and smell. 

If you are unwell and think you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should call your local health clinic immediately. 

In emergencies, call triple zero (000) straight away. 

Do people who are allowed to go into remote Aboriginal communities need to get special approval first? 

No. If you are allowed to go into remote Aboriginal communities under the State Government entry rules, there is no approval process and you do not need to use the G2G app. 

However, some remote Aboriginal communities may have local protocols or other rules in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Even people who are allowed to go into remote Aboriginal communities should contact the community first to find out what rules or protocols apply. 

You need to use safe behaviours when visiting a remote community, such as limiting your contact with residents, to minimise the spread of illness 

Can tourists and travellers go into remote Aboriginal communities? 

No. Tourists and travellers are not allowed to go into remote Aboriginal communities. 

However, they can drive through a community if they do not stop or come into contact with any person in the community. 

Tourists and travellers may be allowed into remote Aboriginal communities that are not covered by the State Government entry rules. 

Tourists and travellers should contact the community before planning to go there to find out what entry rules or local protocols are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

You need to use safe behaviours when visiting a remote community, such as limiting your contact with residents, to minimise the spread of illness. 

Can family or extended family living in town come into our community to visit? 

Yes. The State Government entry rules allow people to go into remote Aboriginal communities for family or cultural purposes. 

Those people do not need to get special approval. 

What is a definition of a remote Aboriginal community under the Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions? 

The Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions apply to each of the remote Aboriginal communities listed in Schedule 1 of the Directions. 

The Directions define the extent of a remote Aboriginal community as the area covered by the community layout plans endorsed under State Planning Policy 3.2. 

If a community does not have a layout plan, it is defined by its ‘community footprint’ which means the area bounded by its housing, other buildings/infrastructure, internal roads and camping grounds. 

Which remote Aboriginal communities can request to be excluded from the entry rules? 

Any remote Aboriginal community can request to be excluded from the State Government entry rules. 

Which remote Aboriginal communities, or parts of them, are currently excluded from the entry rules? 

The following exclusions are currently in place. That means these remote Aboriginal community amenities are open to tourists and travellers.

  • Dampier Peninsula, West Kimberley
    • Djarindjin roadhouse
    • Djarindjin police station
    • Djarindjin airstrip (private airstrip)
  • Mid-West Gascoyne
    • Karalundi shop / café
    • Karalundi caravan park

All other remote Aboriginal communities and their amenities are closed to tourists and travellers.

How does our community request to be excluded from the entry rules? 

If you believe your community should not be covered by the entry rules, you can make a request to the State Emergency Coordinator. 

You can also request that a specific area of your community is excluded from the entry rules. You will need to clearly describe the area to be excluded, with a map if possible. 

Requests for an exclusion should explain:  

  • why the health risk to the community is lower than for other remote Aboriginal communities, and/or 
  • the social or economic problems caused by travel restrictions. 
  • You should explain how the risk of the coronavirus will be managed if the travel rules are removed. This may include things like:  
    • signage 
    • health screening for visitors (asking questions, checking for temperature or other symptoms) 
    • raising community and visitor awareness of health and hygiene 
    • keeping contact details of visitors 
    • cleaning surfaces and facilities 
    • arrangements to keep visitors separate from community areas. 

Your request should be supported by the community council, community corporation board or other community leadership. 

If there is more than one organisation for your community, your request should be supported by all the organisations. 

Requests should be made to the State Emergency Coordinator and emailed to APCUPandemic-Coord@dpc.wa.gov.au 

How do we know which communities have entry rules and which don’t? 

Communities that are covered by the entry rules are listed at the end (Schedule 1) of the Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions

Before travelling to any remote Aboriginal community, you should look at the list of communities in the Directions. 

You should also contact the community first to find out what local protocols or risk management measures are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

How long will the entry rules for remote Aboriginal communities remain in place? 

The State Government entry rules will remain in place for as long as they are necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

If I am not allowed to enter a remote Aboriginal community, can I get special permission to go there? 

If you are not allowed to enter a remote Aboriginal community under the Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions, you can apply to the WA Police for special permission to go there. 

Send an email to SOCC.COVID19@police.wa.gov.au with this information: 

  • your name and address 
  • your phone and email details 
  • name of the remote Aboriginal community you want to enter 
  • why you want to go there (include any relevant documents) 
  • the date you want to go there 
  • how much time you will spend in the community. 

You should always contact a remote Aboriginal community before going there to find out what entry rules or local protocols are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

If some remote Aboriginal communities don’t have entry rules, how will they keep residents and visitors safe? 

Remote Aboriginal communities that are not covered by the State Government entry rules will have a range of health and safety rules in place. 

These may include things like: 

  • signage 
  • health screening for visitors (asking questions, checking for temperature or other symptoms) 
  • raising community and visitor awareness of health and hygiene 
  • keeping contact details of visitors 
  • cleaning surfaces and facilities 
  • arrangements to keep visitors separate from community areas. 

If a remote Aboriginal community wants stronger entry rules, can it make its own extra rules? 

In some cases, yes. If a remote Aboriginal community controls the land on which it sits, it can make extra rules about who is allowed to enter the community. 

Any extra rules or local protocols the community makes to protect itself from the coronavirus will be in addition to the State Government entry rules in the Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions

In addition, some remote Aboriginal communities are also covered by the entry permit system under the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972.  

Where do I go more information?

If you would like more information, please contact the Complex Task Team – Remote Aboriginal Communities at APCUPandemic-Coord@dpc.wa.gov.au.

You can also call 13 COVID (13 268 43).

Page reviewed 3 July 2020
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