Fury as funeral allegedly breaches virus rules

 

A FAR Northern MP is calling for charges to be laid in the wake of a funeral for an indigenous elder attended by 250 people and seemingly in breach of a strict Cape York biosecurity lockdown.

Held at Cullen Point, 80km north of Weipa in the Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council area, the send-off for the elder on Saturday was allegedly attended by mourners from the local area, Thursday Island and Brisbane.

The council is understood to have granted travel permits into an area locked down by COVID-19 biosecurity laws designed to protect an at-risk indigenous population.

Mayor Aileen Addo refused to comment on the potential breach of COVID-19 laws restricting gatherings at outside funerals to 30 people.

Police barricade erected at Emmagen Creek, north of Cape Tribulation at the start of the Bloomfield Track, to restrict access to remote indigenous communities. Photo: Douglas Shire Council
Police barricade erected at Emmagen Creek, north of Cape Tribulation at the start of the Bloomfield Track, to restrict access to remote indigenous communities. Photo: Douglas Shire Council

"I am not prepared to comment, it's a too-sensitive issue" she said.

An angry Weipa man, who asked not be named, was appalled all other travellers to Cape York communities were expected to adhere to a strict 14-day quarantine before being granted entry permission but a small minority had apparently flouted the lockdown laws.

"While the rest of the Cape is in lockdown, businesses are suffering and even expecting mothers have to isolate for 14 days before moving in and out of the Cape York Biosecurity Zone," he said.

An aerial shot of the Wenlock River, close to the location of the funeral in western Cape York. Pic: Kerry Trapnell
An aerial shot of the Wenlock River, close to the location of the funeral in western Cape York. Pic: Kerry Trapnell

 

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he would be "very angry" if the Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council had given approval for such a large funeral.

"It's not on. These are the same communities that demand they extend the lockdown," he said.

Mr Entsch said many people had died since the COVID-19 crisis had hit and grieving families had been forced to accept measures designed to protect Queenslanders.

"And yet (these funeral attendees say) 'to hell with the rest of the region'. If all these people (have been) flying into the area, they have created a huge biosecurity risk," he said.

"It does not matter who breaks the rules, if they break the rules, they should be prosecuted."

Police roadblock set up at Chillagoe with travel into Cape York restricted to
Police roadblock set up at Chillagoe with travel into Cape York restricted to "essential" matters. Picture: Supplied

Cairns Tropical Public Health Unit director Richard Gair said he was aware a large gathering potentially outside the 30-person limit had been planned.

"If there was 300 people there, as far as I am aware, the chief health officer didn't authorise that many people for a funeral there," he said.

A police spokesman confirmed law enforcement attended the funeral.

"Senior local police engaged with the local council, elders and community representatives as part of collaborative efforts to minimise risks associated with large gatherings," he said. No infringement notices were issued.

Originally published as Fury as Cape funeral allegedly breaches COVID rules


34 artists show off their works, studios, creative processes

34 artists show off their works, studios, creative processes

THE Open Studios art trail is on again this weekend, and it’s a rare opportunity to...

Psychological thriller filmed locally streaming on Netflix

Premium Content Psychological thriller filmed locally streaming on Netflix

NORTHERN NSW resident Justin McMillan directed and created the original film...

5 reasons not to miss North Coast’s newest markets

Premium Content 5 reasons not to miss North Coast’s newest markets

Why these new events have all your Christmas shopping sorted