REAL AUSTRALIA

The Voice of Real Australia: COVID safety messages reach the bush as Moree masks up

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STRONG MESSAGE: Aboriginal recording artists Mi-kaisha and Nooky (front), pictured with video clip dancers Maddie Paluch and Chandler Connell, collaborated to write the song, 'One Point 5', encouraging young people to keep their communities safe from COVID-19. Photo: Jake Keane

STRONG MESSAGE: Aboriginal recording artists Mi-kaisha and Nooky (front), pictured with video clip dancers Maddie Paluch and Chandler Connell, collaborated to write the song, 'One Point 5', encouraging young people to keep their communities safe from COVID-19. Photo: Jake Keane

With our wide open plains and beautiful fresh air, Moree in North West NSW is probably one of the best places to be during a highly contagious global pandemic.

Out here, social distancing is just a part of everyday life for many, particularly our farmers and those working on the land.

And yet even in Moree, which is seven hours from Sydney and completely COVID-free, the demand for face masks has been growing over the past few weeks, as more outbreaks pop up across Sydney and wider NSW, while the death toll in Victoria rises.

BUSIER THAN EVER: Nola Kite has been busy making face masks and trolley covers, while Sylvia's Fabrics owner Sylvia Broderick has been flat-out selling material and elastic to people to make their own masks.

BUSIER THAN EVER: Nola Kite has been busy making face masks and trolley covers, while Sylvia's Fabrics owner Sylvia Broderick has been flat-out selling material and elastic to people to make their own masks.

Our local fabric store, Sylvia's Fabrics and Accessories, has been busier than ever with a constant stream of customers looking to buy fabric and materials to make their own masks, while others place orders with local dressmaker Nola Kite.

Owner Sylvia Broderick has been in business for 44 years, and on Monday she served the most customers ever, with more than 50 people walking through the door. She also took 110 mask orders for her friend Nola, who has now made more than 500 face masks.

SOLD OUT: Meg & Jig owner Sally Gall has made hundreds of masks over the last week, with all fabric and materials sourced from Sylvia's Fabrics. She's about to send her last lot off to people in Melbourne in Sydney.

SOLD OUT: Meg & Jig owner Sally Gall has made hundreds of masks over the last week, with all fabric and materials sourced from Sylvia's Fabrics. She's about to send her last lot off to people in Melbourne in Sydney.

Two local boutique stores, Meg & Jig and Botanica Home and Tea Room, have also been completely sold out of the homemade masks they've been selling. Many of their online orders have come from people in Sydney and Melbourne, however, a number of locals have also been buying masks.

And Moree TAFE students also have joined in the mask-making campaign, making unique face masks that have been hand screen printed with original Aboriginal designs by a local artist.

UNIQUE MASKS: Yvonne Rice, Erica Ward, TAFE teacher Melinda O'Donoghue, Shirley Swan, Bridgett Smith, TAFE teacher Lizzie von Gavel and Vicki Thompson with some of the screen printed masks they have made at TAFE NSW Moree.

UNIQUE MASKS: Yvonne Rice, Erica Ward, TAFE teacher Melinda O'Donoghue, Shirley Swan, Bridgett Smith, TAFE teacher Lizzie von Gavel and Vicki Thompson with some of the screen printed masks they have made at TAFE NSW Moree.

While it's great to hear local people are buying and making masks, I never imagined anyone would actually wear them in Moree, where we only had one reported case of COVID-19 back in April.

On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into Woolworths and see all the staff wearing a mask, following a company-wide directive. And while I was in the store, there were quite a few customers also wearing face masks.

DOING THEIR BIT: Woolworths Moree store manager Troy Crocker and staff members Flo Botfield, Heather Moore and David Jackson are among the local team wearing masks in store.

DOING THEIR BIT: Woolworths Moree store manager Troy Crocker and staff members Flo Botfield, Heather Moore and David Jackson are among the local team wearing masks in store.

Perhaps it just takes a few people to don a face covering in public before others feel comfortable enough to be seen in public with a mask.

In small towns like Moree, we can't risk a COVID-19 outbreak. With a high Aboriginal population, an outbreak would be particularly devastating for our community.

But, there are currently a number of great initiatives out there to get the COVID safe message across to our Aboriginal communities, including the release of a new song by Aboriginal recording artists Mi-kaisha and Nooky.

We all need to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and if wearing a face mask will do that, then I say, let's mask up Moree!

- Sophie Harris is a journalist at the Moree Champion in northern NSW.

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