[Drive Buy]Kalumburu debates reopening while tourists drive through without stopping
Residents in Western Australia’s northernmost community are debating whether it is?safe to let tourists stop in their town, as travellers pass through on their way to a popular remote beach.
Tourists are driving through Kalumburu but are not allowed to stopApproval to reopen the town hinges on the vaccine rolloutThe community’s CEO says the COVID-19 vaccine rollout should come to the community in weeks
The Indigenous community of Kalumburu normally sees many tourists during the dry season, who detour off the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road to see attractions such as Mitchell Falls and Honeymoon Beach.
But, like other Indigenous communities, it closed last year to protect its vulnerable residents from COVID-19.
More than a year later, Kalumburu has found itself in a seemingly odd situation, with tourists driving through the town but not allowed to stop.
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This has sparked debate among residents, stoking fear of COVID-19 and the prospect of the virus entering their community.
Tourists can visit Honeymoon Beach but they are not allowed to stop at Kalumburu on their way through.(
ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke
Tourists need to drive through Kalumburu to reach Honeymoon Beach, which lies about 30 kilometres to the?north.
The small community has been given permission to open,?with visitors staying at?a campground run by locally owned tourism business Honeymoon Bay.
However, the?only option for tourists heading for Honeymoon Beach?is to stock up on food and fuel for the return journey?200km south, at Drysdale River.
Honeymoon Bay manager Joy Davey said she would like to see Kalumburu opened?so that tourists could buy?supplies much closer to their destination.
Her business only operates in the dry season and is still financially recovering after last year’s closure.
”A lot of people come on the Gibb [River Road] and it means their stay has been shorter,” she said.
”Most people have only stayed a couple of days but normally they?stay a week or two.”
Tourists cannot refuel in Kalumburu but can get food and fuel in Drysdale River, 200km away.(
The majority of people who attended a recent Kalumburu community meeting voted in support of a partial reopening, which would allow visitors to buy food and fuel and visit the town’s art centre.
But that decision sparked a petition,?signed by more than 70 residents, arguing the vote did not represent the broader view among residents.
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Kwini man and traditional owner Matthew Waina agreed with the argument outlined in the petition that Kalumburu should remain closed until all people had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
”It’s still too dangerous and people are concerned,” he said.?”We don’t want anything to happen down the track.
”When it’s all good and it [the vaccine]?works pretty good, then we can let them come in.”
But Ms Davey said that viewpoint was at odds with the reality on the ground.
”Even though tourists might not be coming in and out, the locals are, and they have been for the past year,” she said.
”They’re travelling in and out to the mainstream cities for their supplies and yet, for some reason, they don’t want tourists coming into their community.”
Want more local newsSign up to the weekly ABC Kimberley email newsletter Kalumburu’s leaders want the vaccine to be rolled out before the community opens up to tourists.(
ABC Kimberley: Erin Parke
Meanwhile, the Department of Premier and Cabinet still needs to approve Kalumburu’s application to partially reopen.
Kalumburu community’s CEO, Maria Lovison, said she had?told the government to withhold approval until the Pfizer vaccine rollout was complete, which was?due to come to the community within weeks.
”The petition didn’t make much difference.?The board had already decided to hold off until the vaccine rollout has occurred,” she said.
Traditional owner Matthew Waina says many people in Kalumburu fear tourists will bring coronavirus into the community.(
But, Mr Waina said, there was?significant fear in the community about vaccines, given the?extremely rare blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca injections.
”They don’t want it until they know the vaccine works properly and, at the moment ,they’re all doubting on taking the needle,” he said.
The community’s chairman, Clement Maraltadj, urged people to get the vaccine, but he would not be drawn on whether a threshold of coverage needed to be reached before the community asked the government to approve the partial reopening.
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”Well it’s up to the community. It’s their choice,” he said.?”If they want to receive the vaccine, it’s up to them.”
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