No picnic on Rotto

WITH the latest group of West Aussies quarantined on Rottnest Island returning to the mainland on Wednesday, a cruise passenger who spent two weeks there in April says the experience at times left him feeling like an offender.

Phil and Susan McLachlan had been aboard the Vasco da Gama for a 45-day cruise which was supposed to end in London, but instead they disembarked in Fremantle in March and were taken with about 200 other WA residents for a mandatory 14-day stay on the island. 

Mr McLachlan said there were positives to their stay in a unit overlooking Geordie Bay. 

“We got to know all the people on either sides of us; we had people with ukuleles playing songs. It was like a real community,” he said.

But he says the island’s food had little variety, and included sandwiches “so revolting” they couldn’t be eaten.

He said there were few updates on their situations from authorities, and they learned of their release date on television.

“I sent an email to the Rottnest Island Board asking what was in place to [bring] us back to the mainland… I still don’t have an answer from them,” Mr McLachlan said.

Bureaucracy

“So I sent a message to [police] assistant commissioner [Brad Royce] and he got back to me within an hour and gave me an indication that something would be coming; by that time, we had seen the premier saying we were going to be freed on Friday.

“The wheels of bureaucracy always run slowly when they don’t take into consideration the mental health of people.” 

Mr McLachlan says he understood the need to quarantine people returning from overseas, but he “wouldn’t wish it on anybody else, because of the restrictions they had … at times we felt like we were offenders”.

There was general support for premier Mark McGowan’s decision to use Rottnest for quarantine in a poll of 54 people, though it wasn’t unanimous.

Scarborough’s Anette Love thought keeping passengers off the mainland was fine, but “it would be a different story if it was in the January peak period … people have waited up to 18 months for their booking”.

A spokesperson for the Rottnest Island Authority said all bookings for the island affected by the quarantine had been moved or refunded.

Hannah Anderson supported the island quarantine: “It’ll put people’s minds at rest more than anything.” 

Briannon Smith felt similarly: “I think it’s good because… it keeps people isolated from the general public without the risk of them not following the rules of quarantine.” 

Of those who thought it was a bad idea, Emily Whyte felt “it’ll ruin the whole positive image around Rottnest”.

by SARAH JOLIFFE

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