Leaders stand up when need is the greatest

Saturday 4 April 2020 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Weekend


Leaders stand up when need is the greatest
Medical clinic worker Tereora Tapaitau is classified as an 'essential' at the tiny Aboriginal settlement of Aurukun, in far north Queensland. 20040309.

The remote, crime-ridden community of Aurukun is far, far up in Australia’s northernmost corner.

There are just 800 residents left, most of them Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet this year the town was rocked by a stabbing death and a riot involving more than 250 people, in which a number of houses were burned down.

Alcohol brought illegally into the alcohol-free community is believed to have been a contributing factor in the violence. One-fifth of the town's population fled to avoid the violence with 110 sheltering in bushland outside the town; another 120 fled to the town of Coen 300 kilometres away.

One who has stayed is Tereora Tapaitau.

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The Cook Islander works in the medical clinic; he was needed then. And he’s needed now by the local community, and by the Cook Islands community.

He doesn’t hear any Cook Islanders in the area complaining much about the coronavirus, “They understand what needs to be done in lockdown measures,” he says. “Our people are well-prepared and are staying home unless they need medical attention.”

Tapaitau is classified as an essential worker. The remote community he lives in, at the moment does not have a confirmed Covid-19 case

“For now, we are doing fine with lockdown measures in place, but if we have one case, it will be difficult to contain as our population is about 800.”

At present he is not worried about the pandemic, however he does worry about his family, “as I’m not there with them, they don’t live here with me in Cairns, but speak to them daily and they are fine.”

“We will get through this through Jesus Christ our Lord. People stay home, be safe, we will overcome this.”

Tapaitau sends his love to mother Miera and families in the Cook Islands.