Quarantine facilities have opened in regional South Australia to house people with COVID-19, or have been identified as close contacts and are unable to isolate safely at home.
- Quarantine camps to help Aboriginal community members isolate safely have opened
- The temporary facilities provide culturally appropriate shelter, language services, healthcare, and food
- Aboriginal people in Port Augusta, unable to quarantine, have been sleeping rough
The Port Augusta Regional COVID Accommodation facility caters for around 100 people including Aboriginal people unable to return to their homelands and communities in the far north.
Over on the west coast, the COVID Accommodation Support Centre has opened to provide the same services in Ceduna, on Wirangu Country at Emu Farm.
"[The Port Augusta] hub will be instrumental in looking after these guys if they test positive," said Glen Wingfield, heritage manager for the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation.
Mr Wingfield said the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation gave permission to SA Health to develop a hub on their land in Port Augusta to look after the COVID-19 positive community.
He said the temporary centre was a "safe and humane" place where they could sleep and get treated for COVID-19 symptoms.
"These rooms have got air conditioning and they've got showers, toilet blocks, and all that kind of stuff," he said.
"SA Health, with the help of the community, have also gone ahead and are going to be doing culturally appropriate food preparation and delivery."
In a letter from SA Health to the city's residents, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said the facility will be staffed with health and security personnel, and those in their care had access to 24/7 support.
A representative from Pika Wiya Aboriginal Health Corporation said they were not aware of the facility until a few days before it opened, despite raising concerns with SA Health about the need for an appropriate COVID-19 management plan when they encountered their first positive case on January 12.
They said they were disappointed they were not consulted, despite being a primary health provider for the Aboriginal community that conducted COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, among other services.
Mr Wingfield praised SA Health for speaking with the community and addressing the issues and concerns that were raised.
A 'foreseeable' problem
At the beginning of the year a Port Augusta footy oval was used as a temporary quarantine camp for rough sleepers, but was closed soon after.
Labor spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher said as a result many Aboriginal people expressed difficulty accessing COVID-19 services including treatment and shelter, and consequently resorted to taking up shelter in abandoned sheds.
"This was absolutely foreseeable," Mr Maher said.
"The government would've known that in places, in Port Augusta, that there is an influx of Aboriginal people during the summer, and even without that there hasn't even been a proper plan to open up a camp."
"COVID-19 is an ever-evolving disease so we knew it was going to happen, but we didn't know everyone was going to congregate in Port Augusta," Mr Wingfield said.
In a statement, SA Health confirmed that the Standpipe Hotel was used as a temporary quarantine facility and people yet to complete their isolation were moved to the new facility across the road.
In a statement, SA Health said both facilities provided all essentials for people including food, shelter, translation services, and health and cultural support at no cost.
The department also said that people would be able to access transport to Adelaide if they preferred to quarantine there.