On a rainy day in Wilcannia, the only people on the street are men and women in medical scrubs and face masks. These volunteers are dropping off much-needed supplies – vegetables, meat, milk, nappies – to the community’s most vulnerable.
The town’s 700-odd residents are in their fourth week of lockdown, and dealing with a worsening COVID-19 outbreak that’s already infected 13 per cent of the population.
But without access to grocery deliveries in NSW’s remote far west, many of Wilcannia’s mostly Aboriginal residents were struggling to get food when the lockdown began.
“We don’t have Uber Eats, we don’t have click and collect, we don’t have delivery services,” Sarah Donnelly, the woman organising the town’s volunteer efforts, told the Herald. “When families found themselves suddenly plunged into isolation, there was an inability to get food and other essential items to them.”
For those in Wilcannia, a 400-kilometre round-trip journey to the shops in Broken Hill is a matter of routine. With one small grocer in the town, people have to leave if they want to buy affordable essential supplies.
“There was simply a supply issue of how much stock was here; obviously it wasn’t enough to support the town,” Ms Donnelly said.
Along with roughly a dozen volunteers, Ms Donnelly has organised the delivery of nearly 1100 hampers filled with food and hygiene products over the past two weeks. More than 700 of those hampers came from Resilience NSW, with the rest personal or corporate donations.
“We’ve had donations pour in from actually all around Australia almost,” she said.