‘Our people are worried’: Tiwi Islands football match postponed as leaders call for extra COVID protections

The chairman of the Tiwi Land Council wants his community to consider stronger coronavirus restrictions on visitors to protect vulnerable Indigenous communities.

Gibson Farmer Illortaminni’s calls follow a hotel quarantine worker in Brisbane testing positive for the more contagious UK variant of the coronavirus, and new clusters regularly emerging interstate.

“It’s been all over the world, like America, UK, Indonesia and right down to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane,” Mr Farmer Illortaminni said.

“Our people are a bit worried, especially the elderly.”

The NT Government yesterday declared Greater Brisbane a coronavirus hotspot, meaning anyone from the area arriving in the Territory must undergo mandatory quarantine.

People who arrived before Friday morning do not have to quarantine, but many have been told to get COVID-19 tests and are in self-isolation until those results are returned.

The NT Government is also asking anyone who has come from Brisbane since January 2 to self-isolate and get tested, but this is not compulsory.

Gibson Farmer smiles at the camera from close range wearing a blue polo shirt.Gibson Farmer smiles at the camera from close range wearing a blue polo shirt.
Mr Farmer Illortaminni says extra precautions should be introduced to protect communities on the Tiwi Islands.(ABC News: Jane Bardon)

Mr Farmer Illortaminni said he would like to see tourists and essential workers return negative COVID-19 tests before entering the remote Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

“All the essential workers, they can come over, but we have got to take precautionary measures,” he said.

“We do not want people wandering around the Tiwi Islands that might have something.

“We need to check out everyone that goes on the [Tiwi] Islands — tourists and even essential service workers, they need to all get checked out.”

It follows the postponement of a Northern Territory Football League match on the Tiwi Islands after the Tiwi Land Council expressed concerns regarding two players had recently returned to the NT from Brisbane.

The match was scheduled to take place at the Tiwi community of Wurrumiyanga north of Darwin at 1:30pm today.

“Waratah self-reported they had two players that returned from Brisbane in that time frame and attended training on Thursday night, and one of those woke up yesterday morning with flu-like symptoms,” AFLNT community football manager Leigh Elder said.

“Thankfully the two players were tested and received negative results but obviously that didn’t arrive on our desk until after 8:00pm last night.”

Three Tiwi Bombers players leap for the ballThree Tiwi Bombers players leap for the ball
Saturday’s scheduled match between the Tiwi Bombers and Waratah will not go ahead due to coronavirus precautions.(Supplied: Tiwi Bombers)

The AFLNT said health officials had cleared the game to go ahead, but the organisation wanted to respect the caution of the Tiwi Land Council.

“Immediately we started working with the Health Department … after communicating with all the clubs and dealing with the Tiwi council, they just raised their concerns for the health and wellbeing of their community,” Mr Elder said.

“At the end of the day, I don’t mind people being cautious with this scenario.

“I think we were all hoping 2021 would be a whole new world but the reality is this problem is here for quite a while.”

Mr Elder said the AFLNT would discuss further options for the match early next week.

In March last year spectators and tourists from Darwin were prevented from travelling to the Tiwi Islands football grand final — a major event on the local cultural calendar.

The event, which coincides with one of the country’s largest Indigenous art fairs, usually draws thousands of visitors from across the country.