Frustrations over coronavirus lockdowns in South Australian Aboriginal communities have boiled over with the arrest of a protesting elder.
- Four Aboriginal towns are under the State Government’s lockdown measures
- Residents say the measures are excessive and restrict access to essentials
- A 67-year-old man was arrested on Thursday for protesting against the order
Residents say the restrictions they have been living under for more than a month are excessive and block them from accessing essential services including supermarkets and medical clinics.
The State Government has ordered that visitors and residents returning to four remote towns in the state must self-isolate for 14 days before they are allowed in.
One of those towns is Davenport, near Port Augusta, where locals have been in lockdown since March in an effort to keep the virus out.
Adnyamathanha elder Malcolm McKenzie was arrested at Davenport on Thursday after he protested against the lockdown by using his car to block a truck carrying barricades.
Police asked him to move and, when he refused, he was arrested and taken to the Port Augusta Police Station.
He was released a few hours later, but because he left the community, he is now self-isolating for 14 days at a Port Augusta caravan park.
“The truck was going to drive into our community, so I parked my car in front of the truck.”
Mr McKenzie said his views were shared by many others in the town.
“They arrested me for disorderly behaviour, but I’m doing this on behalf of the Aboriginal people of Davenport,” he said.
“They took me in, in handcuffs behind my back, and I asked them if they could take them off because it was painful and now I’m still getting pins and needles in my hands.”
Community members have described the lockdown as similar to the “mission days”, when Aboriginal people living at Davenport needed a permit to visit Port Augusta.
Davenport is 2 kilometres outside Port Augusta and has no grocery store and limited medical services.
Mr McKenzie said that made staying in the community difficult.
“There’s a young Aboriginal man in there that’s got to go to get chemotherapy,” he said.
“He’s got to get permission from the police every time he leaves his community.
Residents suggested there should be a period of time each day when they can leave Davenport to buy essential items and go to medical appointments.
Greens condemn arrest as ‘overreaction’
South Australian Greens MLC Tammy Franks slammed the decision to arrest Mr McKenzie.
“This is an Adnyamathanha elder on his own land being arrested for protesting the erection of a barricade that should never have been put in,” she said.
“He has every right to protest a barrier being erected.
“The idea that he be thrown to ground, handcuffed and shipped off to a cell has nothing to do with public health concerns and everything to do with overreaction.”
An SA Police spokesperson confirmed a 67-year-old Davenport man was arrested on Thursday and charged with disorderly behaviour.
He was bailed and will appear in the Port Augusta Magistrates Court at a later date.
“The arrested man declined an exemption and has indicated that he will instead self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to the Davenport community,” the spokesperson said.
The other towns ordered into lockdown by the Government are Gerard in the Riverland, Point Pearce on the Yorke Peninsula and Yalata on the Far West Coast.
Movement into several other Aboriginal communities is also restricted, including Nepabunna and the APY Lands.