As remote communities near Katherine in the Northern Territory battle the latest outbreak of COVID-19, a task unit from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has mobilised to help authorities and support the community in their time of need.

At the request of the NT Government, the ADF is providing support to NT authorities to enhance their capacity to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 in regional communities.

In addition to support to the community of Katherine and Rockhole, the ADF has been active in the small community of Binjari, a community of less than 400 residents.

Commander of the Joint Task Group 629.7, Colonel Tim Rutherford, said the ADF was proud to be helping the community.

“Our teams are providing vital support to communities of Binjari and Rockhole, in their time of need. We were able to mobilise quickly and have been assisting local services with the delivery of food, supplies and the ferrying of residents to medical facilities. Other teams are supporting the NT Police to manage access to the area” Colonel Rutherford said.

“We are happy to do whatever we can to support the NT Police in Binjari. The work being done, by all agencies on the ground, is preventing the spread of COVID 19 and will save lives,” Colonel Rutherford said.

Colonel Rutherford said that the ADF personnel deployed to Binjari were all Territorians and most live and work in the area.

“We have long standing ties with the region and deep connections to the community”, Colonel Rutherford said, speaking about the Task Unit members – many of whom are Royal Australian Air Force or Army personnel from the North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE) based at nearby RAAF Tindal.”

ADF members on Operation COVID-19 Assist provide support to Northern Territory Police at a vehicle control point near the community of Binjari, near Katherine. Photo: Squadon Leader Lauren Guest

Indigenous health leaders in the region have been supportive of the ADF and partner agencies’ support to their community. Suzi Berto of the Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service praised the efforts of the ADF and NT authorities.

“We have been treated with a lot of respect and appreciate all the support being given by these support personnel”, Ms Berto said.

Around 85 personnel are supporting the NT Government authorities near Katherine and the communities of Binjari and Rockhole as part of the Northern Territory’s Whole of Government response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Defence members are part of the ADF’s Operation COVID-19 Assist, supporting state and territory authorities nationally since March 2020.