While Western Australian remote communities face stringent lockdown measures, boutique law firm, Arma Legal, provides clarity on the State of Emergency Declaration and what it means for mob, and continues to offer Native Title services remotely.
SPONSORED: In the face of COVID-19 Indigenous people, particularly those who are elderly and sick, are faced with a greater risk of infection.
Aboriginal communities in Western Australia have been placed in lockdown to reduce the virus’ spread and there is confusion around what the State of Emergency Declaration means for Indigenous Australians.
Under section 67 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA), which provides special power for the Western Australian Police Commissioner and Chief Health Officer, the WA Government has been able to implement special laws during this time of uncertainty for regions in WA.
The Declaration ensures that:
- Only essential staff and people with permission can enter or exit Aboriginal communities
- The Declaration is legally enforceable and is aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 into communities
- People within a remote community must also remain within that community’s boundaries
- There are exemptions for medical reasons and other special circumstances
- Self-isolation measures are enforced that many communities are already observing
- Those who breach lockdown measures could face up to $50,000 in fines for individuals and $250,000 for corporate entities.
However, the issue with the emergency declaration is: how do people from remote outstations access food, groceries and other essential items? Has this been considered by those enforcing these emergency measures?
Arma Legal Director, Damien Parriman, said the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has increased as a result of community lockdowns.
“The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the socioeconomic demography was quite significant prior to these restrictions, and we see that the Government is doing what it can to stimulate economic growth through this period, but we have a number of Indigenous communities who are in lockdown for health reasons,” Parriman said.
“The communities are particularly vulnerable and we should undertake whatever measures possible to protect those communities.
“The effect of these [measures] is the limitations and restrictions [it places] on those communities to continue to participate in everyday life.”
“Nothing is being done to stimulate growth within that community, so what we will see after this crisis has passed is an increase in that gap.”
Parriman also said the collaborative nature of the Native Title process is currently being hindered, and that while communities are in lockdown it is hard to understand what will be needed from them post-COVID-19.
“Arma Legal specialises in Native Title services, [which are] a communal right. Instructions are taken from, not individuals but rather a community, or a committee as a representation of that community,” Parriman said.
The prohibition of travel and the lockdown of communities has made it difficult for Native Title and governance services to be provided, potentially causing Native Title determinations and progressions of matters to come to a halt.
Arma Legal, however, is positioning themselves with teleconferencing services to ensure Indigenous people are still getting access to the legal services they require where possible.
Operating nationally, Arma Legal is available via email or phone during the COVID-19 crisis. To contact Arma Legal head to their website: https://armalegal.com.au/.