Rapper Barkaa has described the unfolding Covid crisis in the far western New South Wales town of Wilcannia as a “nightmare”.
Wilcannia currently has the highest coronavirus transmission rate in all of New South Wales. There have been a total of 69 cases so far in a majority-Indigenous population of just 720, according to numbers obtained from The Guardian.
Barkaa, a Wilcannia native and proud Malyangapa/Barkindji woman, spoke to ABC’s The World Today program about her fears for what lies ahead. “It’s ripping through the community like wildfire at the moment, which is really, really scary,” she said.
“This was my worst nightmare for it to ever hit my community, especially when we know the statistics and the early death rates of our mob due to colonial disease.”
Barkaa explained that, as a result of continuous neglect, Wilcannia is already experiencing a housing crisis, which limits the population’s ability to isolate. “How are you supposed to isolate when there is so much overcrowding in the homes?” she said. The situation is grim, to say the least. “Now mob are isolating in tents down on the river and stuff and sleeping out the front if they test positive.”
Yesterday, The Guardian revealed that the Morrison government was warned of the threat to Wilcannia as far back as March 2020. The Maari Ma Health organisation wrote to Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, to underline Wilcannia’s vulnerability. The issues highlighted were precisely those that have made Barkaa so worried—overcrowded housing, lack of food security, and existing issues with health and chronic disease.
However, despite the urgent warnings, Maari Ma says nothing was done to prevent what it now describes as a “humanitarian crisis”. “It’s heartbreaking. I just hope my mob can get through this,” said Barkaa.