The Chronicle

Mass grave serves as sinister warning


A CHERBOURG councillor said a mass grave under an Ironbark tree serves as a sinister warning for the community about what could happen if they didn’t drasticall­y increase their vaccinatio­n rates before the state reopened.

Leighton Costello said when he thought about what could happen to his beloved community if the Covid-19 virus spread before they could reach 80 per cent immunity, he was reminded of the nameless people buried in a trench under an Ironbark tree after the Spanish flu tore through Cherbourg – then Barambah – in 1919.

“We’ve got a mass grave, because we couldn’t have individual ceremonies. I’m worried the same thing will happen,” Mr Costello said.

Within three weeks, 590 of the 600 residents became infected with the deadly virus. Up to 90 – 15 per cent of the population – would never recover.

Uncle Eric Law previously told News Corp that with only 10 healthy people left in the community, they had no choice but to bury their dead in two large trenches, which were found at the end of last year. Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Mayor Elvie Sandow has pleaded with the community to get vaccinated to keep their community and families safe.

“We only need one case in Cherbourg and it could wipe out our community,” Ms Sandow said.

“And our people don’t like to be locked down, they don’t like the checkpoint. There’s even going to be the army that’s going to come in.”

The latest local government area vaccinatio­n data revealed Cherbourg remained the least protected community in the state, with 32 per cent of residents having had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and 24.9 per cent fully vaccinated.

For the regions, such as Cherbourg, with low vaccinatio­n rates, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned she would not hesitate to trigger “regionalis­ed lockdowns and restrictio­ns” if they didn’t reach 80 per cent by December 17.

Mr Costello said the last lockdown was devastatin­g for the community – particular­ly for the elders, who were reminded of life under the Aborigines Protection Act where residents were barred from leaving Cherbourg without permission.

He said previous restrictio­ns also had a heavy impact on the communitie­s’ mental health, with a new lockdown threatenin­g to bear down even harder on residents amid an ongoing suicide crisis – isolating the community and cutting them off from critical services.

“When Covid first started we were in lockdown for months and it was hard. So we don’t want to move backward, we want to move forward, and the only way to do that is to get the community vaccinated,” he said.

 ?? Picture: Holly Cormack ?? Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire councillor Leighton Costello and Mayor Elvie Sandow.
Picture: Holly Cormack Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire councillor Leighton Costello and Mayor Elvie Sandow.

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