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NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro apologises to family for funeral comments

Rachael Knowles -

The New South Wales Deputy Premier has apologised for any "distress" his comments caused comparing funeral attendees in Wilcannia to "dickhead" partygoers in Maroubra.

On Wednesday evening, Deputy Premier John Barilaro contacted the brother of the deceased Daryl Bugmy to express his "sincere condolences" and "apologise for any distress" his comments may have caused.

"I explained that my intention was never to place blame or draw comparisons and my comment was taken out of context, and he accepted my explanation," said Mr Barilaro.

"After speaking to Mr Bugmy it is clear there were discrepancies between the information that was provided to me and the circumstances at the funeral, and I'll be asking government officials why incorrect information was provided to me."

The Deputy Premier said he had shared his personal contact details with Mr Bugmy who "wholeheartedly accepted" his apology.

The comments Mr Barilaro referred to in his apology were made at a regional news press conference on Tuesday.

Addressing media, the Deputy Premier compared the 300 community members who attended the funeral to the 16 "dickhead" partygoers who attended an illegal party in the Sydney suburb of Maroubra.

"Three hundred-plus people attended a funeral in Wilcannia, illegally you could argue. Illegally," Barilaro said.

"[It's] no different to the 16 dickheads in Maroubra that decided to have a party last week that have now infected about 50 people."

In a statement to NIT on Wednesday, Mr Barilaro said he was advised that between 100 and 350 people attended the funeral with some travelling from locked down areas and breaching stay-at-home orders.

The funeral, which took place on August 13 in Wilcannia, has been confirmed by NSW Police as a legal event that was COVID-safe.

NSW Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty David Harris believes an apology isn't enough.

Mr Harris said the Deputy Premier should "back up the apology with resources and on the ground support which is what is really needed".

"Throw away lines at press conferences that try to deflect blame, instead of acknowledging the on-the-ground realities of struggling health systems, lack of isolation opportunities and low vaccination rates cause division and demonises people unnecessarily," he said.

"The situation in Aboriginal communities in western NSW is evidence of poor planning and demonstrates that State and Federal Governments became complacent after 2020 COVID-19 outbreaks which saw Aboriginal communities virus-free.

"Politicians should not be seeking to 'blame' communities for outbreaks, when it is their own systems that have failed."

Mr Barilaro's comments also attracted criticism from Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe.

Senator Thorpe shared Mr Harris' sentiments.

"Is John Barilaro also sorry that only 6.3 per cent of First Nations people in western NSW are fully vaccinated? Compared to 26 per cent of the non-Indigenous population in the area," she said.

"Families in Wilcannia are sticking to the rules and staying at home, but they're running out of food. They rang the authorities for help and were told to order UberEats, when the nearest delivery is 200km away.

"What's Barilaro going to do to support a community in crisis?"

By Rachael Knowles

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