Camp assists during difficult period

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across Australia, the Protecting Our People (POP) group has helped to ease concerns of those in social isolation in Port Augusta and surrounding regions.

Aboriginal people had been stranded outside of their communities due to quarantine rules, and in POP Phase I which commenced in May, the project was designed to assist those from the Barngarla, Kokatha and Kuyani communities to handle the pandemic.

The objectives were to prevent an outbreak and minimise social, cultural, health and economic impacts.

When Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation secured funding from BHP, a plan was put in place with Aboriginal community leaders - Kuyani's Lavene Ngatokorua, Linda Dare from Barngarla and Kokatha's Glen Wingfield, who helped David Kelly of McMurtrie Company Marketing to run the program.

With the main need being accommodation, food and other essential supplies in a secluded place, the group secured access to Camp Willochra, near Melrose.

It provided a safe place for people from Aboriginal communities who had been stranded by movement restrictions to do the required quarantine before returning to country.

Donations were made, including breakfast delivered to the camp by the Port Augusta Corps of the Salvation Army to feed campers.

"The mobs very quickly loved what we did and renamed the camp 'Camp Wiru', which means 'Camp Beautiful," Mr Kelly said.

The first phase ended in August and helped more than 250 people.

With the COVID-19 situation changing since the first phase, POP II has run on a different model.

"Whilst the biggest efforts in POP I were providing group isolation for Aboriginal people to return to country, the main needs in POP II are to help households and homeless people," Mr Kelly said.

He said there were four main streams in the second phase of the program, including an outreach program, COVID education, transport, and assisting rough sleepers.

POP has assisted more than 500 people over the past nine weeks.