NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has literally gone and compared an Aboriginal man’s outdoor funeral in the remote town of Wilcannia to the “dickheads in Maroubra” who flouted Sydney’s lockdown restrictions, the ABC reports.
Barilaro made a bunch of claims about the Wilcannia funeral during a rural press conference on Tuesday, and now members of the community are calling for an apology.
“300-plus people attended a funeral in Wilcannia, illegally you could argue – illegally,” Barilaro told the media.
“And we’re now paying the price of that outbreak, and whatever resources you could’ve prepared for I don’t think you could’ve ever prepared for such an outcome.
‘[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.”
Except, of course, it’s completely different.
Firstly, the illegal party in Maroubra was a flagrant breach of Sydney’s lockdown. Meanwhile, the funeral in Wilcannia was held when the town wasn’t actually in lockdown – it instead took place before blanket restrictions were imposed on regional NSW.
On top of that, the brother of the man for whom the funeral was held said there weren’t actually that many people in attendance at the August 13 gathering.
“Saying there was 350 people there, they must’ve been invisible, because I was actually at the funeral,” the man’s brother told the ABC.
“Police were there and knew the gathering was happening. [If it was illegal] why didn’t the police intervene or stop it from happening?
“I would like an apology, and the community would like an apology, for saying that we were illegally gathering.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard already made similar comments and copped flak for it. You’d think Barilaro would’ve at least gotten his facts right and also learned to read the fucking room.
Barilaro’s comments are particularly hurtful because they come at a time when Wilcannia is grappling with quite a severe COVID cluster.
Wilcannia is one of the most disadvantaged towns in NSW and most residents are Aboriginal. The average life expectancy of an Aboriginal man in Wilcannia is around 40 years old.
NITV reports that people are being forced to self-isolate in tents because of overcrowded housing, and there are fears of a food shortage now that certain businesses have had to close.
The last thing the community needs is the Deputy Premier (who is also the Minister for Regional NSW) comparing mourners who attended a legal funeral to “dickheads” who actually flouted lockdown restrictions.