Social Justice & Action
Isolation dilemma exposes housing scandal
In Wilcannia, a long-term housing shortage has made safe home isolation impossible for most residents.
Overcrowded homes contribute to poor hygiene, which helps spread the virus. Alcohol and drug abuse and a high rate of illiteracy also make it harder to fight the spread of COVID-19.
ABC News reported that the first COVID-19-positive residents of Wilcannia were instructed by Far West Local Health District to isolate in their own homes.
But as Suzy Pluker points out, three generations live in two-bedroom and three-bedroom houses. Often, more than a dozen people live under one roof.
“I crew the ambulance and I’ve been to damn near every house in town,” she says.
“Almost every house has beds in the lounge room. I picked one guy up who was sleeping in an armchair in the laundry.
“I haven’t seen any home building happening in the four years I’ve been here.”
Ministry of Health plans originally identified caravan park cabins and motel rooms to be used for isolation.
However, there are only about 10 cabins and the motel rooms proved impractical, Suzy says. “Like the surge control advice, they didn’t reflect the reality of the town.”
Authorities were forced to rush a fleet of 30 motor homes to the town, while some residents slept in tents in their yards or on Wilcannia oval.