Meet the loneliest coronavirus cops in Australia

For almost four months already, a detachment of NT and Federal Police, along with Army soldiers have manned isolated checkpoints on the NT-WA borders to successfully keep coronavirus at bay. Pictures: NT Police.
For almost four months already, a detachment of NT and Federal Police, along with Army soldiers have manned isolated checkpoints on the NT-WA borders to successfully keep coronavirus at bay. Pictures: NT Police.

A small detachment of Northern Territory police patrol border checkpoints in one of the most isolated regions of Australia.

Bolstered by the arrival of the Army and about 100 Federal Police, these coronavirus cops have been working successfully to keep COVID-19 out of the Territory.

Only aerial pictures or maps give any sense of how remote their checkpoints are on the unpopulated Western Australia-NT border along the Victoria and Buntine highways.

With only 32 cases of the virus, no deaths and no community transmission at all, the Territory has become the nation's safe haven so far from coronavirus' frightening advance into every corner of the country.

Their lonely vigil began almost four months ago as many other states and territories bunkered down to ride it out.

The lonely Victoria Highway checkpoint on the NT-WA border, with Greyhound buses lined up for crossing.

The lonely Victoria Highway checkpoint on the NT-WA border, with Greyhound buses lined up for crossing.

The NT's borders were open on Friday to all but Victoria and Sydney and of the 2500 who flooded across for the last few months of the tourist dry season, they let 277 through on the WA border.

Such is their remoteness, they have had to rely on the help of nearby stations Newry and Bunda for support.

Bunda on the Buntine Highway, Newry on the Victoria Highway.

At very short notice the stations provided accommodation and meals for the police and soldiers.

The station's air strips have been used by the NT Police air wing to resupply and transfer its members.

"If it was not for the support of the stations and the community the task of manning the borders would have been significantly more difficult," the NT's police Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage said.

Although the borders are now open, a nervous NT Government has promised to keep the checkpoints in place "indefinitely" to restrict the flow and make sure there are no visitors coming from the hotspots.

Colonel John Papalitsas from the Australian Army, Newry Station's Dave Young, Deputy Commissioner Smalpage and Supt Ballard.

Colonel John Papalitsas from the Australian Army, Newry Station's Dave Young, Deputy Commissioner Smalpage and Supt Ballard.

"The support from the community to our response to COVID-19 has been evident across the Northern Territory and has resulted in the Territory being the safest place in Australia," Deputy Commissioner Smalpage said.

In June, Deputy Commissioner Smalpage along with Federal Police Superintendent Matthew Ballard and Colonel John Papalitsas from the Australian Army visited several of these outposts located on the NT-WA border.

Supt Matthew Ballard makes a presentation to Andrew O'Kane and Brooke Harwood from Bunda Station.

Supt Matthew Ballard makes a presentation to Andrew O'Kane and Brooke Harwood from Bunda Station.

After congratulating the police and soldiers performing their isolated duty, they also met and thanked station managers Dave Young from Newry Station and Andrew O'Kane and Brooke Harwood from Bunda Station for their "significant support".

Deputy Commissioner Smalpage said: "The Territory is the safest place in Australia, and it's because of people like you supporting the continued efforts to keep COVID-19 out of the NT."