COVID-19 coronavirus: Remote Aboriginal communities

Safety and support measures to protect remote Aboriginal communities.

Last updated: 23 November 2020 at 2.44pm

A collection of resources, contacts and information for remote communities about COVID-19 coronavirus and how to stay safe.

Health advice

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Symptoms

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms are similar to cold and flu and can include:

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

You can check your symptoms on the Australian Government’s healthdirect website.

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.

When will symptoms start to show?

Symptoms may start to show between 2-14 days of exposure to the virus. You may be sick and contagious but not show any symptoms at all.

More information

Medical help

If you are sick and think you have symptoms of coronavirus, stay home and call your local health clinic immediately.

If the health clinic says that you may have coronavirus, you will be tested for the virus and other bugs. Some tests can get an answer back quickly.

Testing is available at all WA Country Health Service sites, as well as clinics operated by Aboriginal medical services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Silver Chain.

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

More information

  • Call the COVID-19 Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

Prevention

You can get coronavirus from other people, or from touching things that other people have touched or coughed on. You may have coronavirus without knowing it, and you can give it to other people without meaning to.

Everyone must practice good hygiene and keep at least 1.5 metres (two big steps) from others to slow the spread of coronavirus and protect people who are most at risk.

How to help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • avoid touching your face
  • regularly clean and disinfect surfaces, like tables, kitchen benches, phones and doorknobs
  • cover your cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, and throw away used tissues
  • practice physical distancing, which means stand at least 1.5 metres away from other people when talking, including family
  • if you feel unwell, stay home and avoid contact with others.

There are also government rules in place to keep communities safe from coronavirus (see the Community safety section).

If you have coronavirus

If you have a confirmed case of coronavirus, you will need to stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days to stop the virus spreading any further.

Anyone who has had close contact with someone who has coronavirus should also self-isolate for 14 days in case they are contagious.

Self-isolation is different from social distancing. It means you must:

  • stay at home or stay in one place for 14 days
  • not visit public places (work, parks, sports)
  • not have visitors, including family: stay in touch with family over the phone or online
  • ask family to get supplies (food and medicine) for you and leave it at your door.

More information

People most at risk

Anyone can become sick from coronavirus, but some people are at higher risk of serious illness if they get the virus.

People most at risk include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older
  • those who already have a health problem (such as diabetes or heart disease)

If you are in the above categories, it is very important that you stay away from people who are unwell and continue to practice physical distancing and good personal hygiene.

Mental wellbeing

It’s normal to feel lots of emotions during a difficult time like this. You may feel stress, anxiety, grief, boredom and worry. It’s important to look after yourself.

Wellbeing tips

To look after your mental wellbeing, you should try to:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about coronavirus repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, get good sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Do some activities you enjoy at home.
  • Connect with others. Talk with friends and family about how you are feeling.

Get help and support

For 24-hour support, you can call:

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm, call 000.

More information

Community safety

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Local pandemic action plans

The State Government is working with remote Aboriginal communities to develop local pandemic action plans.

The plans will help ensure communities are safe and can respond to a coronavirus outbreak. They are being developed in partnership with community leaders and are based on the Western Australian Government Pandemic Plan (Word, 51KB).

More information

More information

Travel restrictions

Travel is allowed around all of Western Australia except into remote Aboriginal communities.

Under the State Government’s Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions, the only people who can enter a remote Aboriginal community are residents and those who are:

  • providing essential services and supplies
  • going to work or school there
  • entering for family or cultural reasons
  • delivering a community program or activity
  • entering in an emergency.

These people cannot enter a community if they have coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus, or if they are waiting for a test result or have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus.

Travellers can drive through a remote Aboriginal community only if they do not stop or come into contact with any person in the community.

Police have the power to enforce the travel restrictions, and fines of up to $50,000 can be issued.

Western Australia’s border with the eastern states remains closed.

Exclusions

Some remote Aboriginal communities, or parts of Aboriginal communities, are excluded from the travel restrictions. That means they are open to tourists and travellers.

The following exclusions are currently in place:

  • Dampier Peninsula, West Kimberley
    • Burrguk (entire community)
    • Djarindjin Roadhouse
    • Dampier Peninsula Police Station
    • Djarindjin airstrip (private airstrip)
    • Embulgun (entire community)
    • Gnylmarung (entire community)
    • Googar Goonyool (entire community)
    • Goombaragin (entire community)
    • Gumbarnun (entire community)
    • Lombadina (entire community)
    • Mercedes Cove (entire community)
  • West Kimberley
    • Imintji Campground
    • Imintji Store
    • Imintji Arts Centre
    • Mimbi Visitor Access Road
    • Mimbi Visitor Reception Building
    • Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre
  • East Kimberley
    • Violet Valley campground in Baulu-Wah (excluded but not open for business)
    • Carranya (entire community)
    • Wuggubun (entire community)
    • Doon Doon (Woolah) Caravan Park
    • Doon Doon (Woolah) Roadhouse
  • Goldfields
    • Ilkulka (entire community)
  • Mid-West Gascoyne
    • Karalundi Café / Shop
    • Karalundi Caravan Park.

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

Community requirements

Some remote Aboriginal communities have their own requirements for people entering. These requirements are in addition to the rules set out in the Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions.

Non-residents wanting to go into a remote Aboriginal community should contact the community before going there to find out what travel restrictions or entry requirements are in place.

See below for a list of remote Aboriginal communities and their entry requirements.

More information

Public places and gatherings

Phase 4 restrictions mean that:  

  • you can now gather in groups of any size
  • there are no limits on how many people can go to a funeral or to church
  • you can have everyone together for cultural business again
  • you can travel around in big groups for football and other sports.

It is still important that you keep 1.5 metres (two big steps) away from others where possible, maintain good personal hygiene and avoid contact with others if you are unwell.

More information

School and education

Contact your school or educational provider to find out what changes they have made because of coronavirus.

Schools

Attendance at school is now compulsory, except for those who are recognised as medically vulnerable or who have medically vulnerable family members.

TAFE colleges

TAFEs are using a combination of online and interactive technologies, and face-to-face training where necessary. Courses that have been delivered exclusively online will continue to do so.

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Community support

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Self-isolation accommodation

Assistance is available for residents of remote Aboriginal communities who need temporary accommodation in town to self-isolate (see the Health advice section).

For more information, contact the Disaster Response Hotline on 1800 032 965.

Food and essential supplies

The State Government is working with suppliers, transport companies and major supermarkets to ensure that remote Aboriginal communities continue to have access to food and other essential items.

Deliveries will continue – they are not impacted by travel restrictions.

If you are having difficulty obtaining food or other essential items, please call 13 COVID (13 268 43) or the Disaster Response Hotline on 1800 032 965.

Funeral assistance

It’s safe to have a funeral during COVID-19. From 27 June 2020, there are no limits on how many people can attend a funeral. 

People should keep 1.5 metres (two big steps) away from each other, keep their hands clean and avoid touching others.

The Department of Communities offers financial support to people who are unable to pay for funeral costs. The family member organising the funeral can apply for assistance at their nearest Department of Communities office.

For more information on how to apply, visit Bereavement Assistance Program or free call 1800 854 925.

More information

Phone connection

Telstra payphones

To help residents of remote Aboriginal communities stay connected to friends, family and health care services, calls from Telstra payphones in remote Aboriginal communities are now free.

Free calls will also enable residents to access important information during the coronavirus pandemic.

The free payphones will display ‘Free Calls from Telstra’ on their screens.

More information

Family and domestic violence

Family and domestic violence can get worse during a crisis.There are support services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Emergency and helpline contacts

  • In an emergency, or if someone is in immediate danger, call 000 now
  • To seek help safely online, go to the 1800 Respect website.
  • If you need support, call the domestic violence helplines:
    • Women's Domestic Violence Helpline – 9223 1188 or free call 1800 007 339
    • Men's Domestic Violence Helpline – 9223 1199 or free call 1800 000 599.

More information

Information about support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is available on the Department of Communities website.

Messages in language

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Audio messages for remote Aboriginal communities
Page reviewed 23 November 2020