Cape York Land Council has taken steps to protect Aboriginal people in Cape communities and to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading into the region. On Friday 13 March 2020, CYLC implemented strict conditions on all staff travel, cancelling all meetings that will involve travel in and out of Cape communities until 31 May, with this to be reviewed in coming weeks. In addition, all non-essential travel by staff from Cairns to southern cities has been cancelled. CYLC is exploring remote video conference and teleconferencing facilities across the region to support meetings to continue in the safest means available.
All staff have been asked to take additional professional and personal precautions regarding travel in the coming months.
Chairperson Richie Ah Mat stated “all of the Cape York communities include residents who are elderly, may have existing health conditions and live in overcrowded housing. We know all of these factors put community members at great risk if this virus spread north into the region. We must take early action to reduce the risk of it spreading, and I am pleased that the CYLC team implemented this immediately. These steps will affect our operations for possibly the next six months. It will affect community engagement, Directors meetings but all for a very good reason. We have an obligation to not risk one of our team taking this virus into Cape York”.
Cape York Land Council Acting CEO, Kirsty Broderick confirmed that the CYLC was taking steps to implement procedures to ensure business was not affected if the virus spread to Cairns and staff were impacted. “We are trialling our systems to ensure operations continue on a remote basis if our local office is affected. Our priority right now is protecting those most vulnerable. A number of consultancy visits and community engagements were scheduled. This will now be conducted by remote conferencing. We cannot remove the risks of the virus spreading, so we must take steps to prepare the business to operate in the worst case scenario. If these steps, which some may consider extreme, slow down the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the demand on the remote communities health systems, that is a good thing.”
Cape York Land Council is already speaking with affected community members to explain the steps taken in the best interests of Cape York ATSI residents. Any questions regarding travel into and out of Cape York for Land Council business should be directed to the CYLC freecall number: 1800 623 548.