We are three
members of the Cairns Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community concerned
about a number of issues in relation to the response for Covid 19 and
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities particularly in our urban
setting in Cairns and in smaller rural towns across the Far North Queensland
Region. We are calling for action to urgently
address these concerns.
We have come
together as a group to ensure there is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island
community voices at the heart of a co-ordinated response across sectors
responsible for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island
peoples as per the National Health Sector Emergency
Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus
(Covid19); Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Populations
and Operational Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Populations.
The plan clearly outlines that the Management Plan will specifically assist to:
Inform, engage and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in COVID-19 responses; specifically
Preparedness, Targeted action and Stand down phases;
- Guide the development, implementation and evaluation of local Action Plans in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities;
- Identify and characterise the nature of the virus and the disease in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander context;
- Minimise transmissibility, morbidity and mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
- populations; and
- Minimise the burden on and support health systems, especially Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).
The 3 Principles of the emergency response plan are specific about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community involvement and in particular the first principle (Shared decision-making between Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) states
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be involved in
assessing COVID-19 risk and responses in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities. Responses must be centred on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people’s perspectives, ways of living and culture developed and implemented
with culture as a core underlying positive determinant.
- Clinical and public health responses to COVID-19 outbreaks in
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities should be collaborative, but
responses must ensure local community leaders and communities are central to
- These responses should be co-developed, and co-designed with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, enabling them to contribute and
fully participate in shared decision-making.
- Further Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural governance
groups, initiated and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can
bring advice and guidance on culturally-specific responses including
applaud the work that is being done, it appears that it is focussed on a
clinical response, with not enough effort going into prevention and early
intervention so we don’t end up with a catastrophe on our hands.
It appears that
to date the response to Covid 19 has left out the key ingredient which is our
communities’ involvement in shared decision making. It is we who know what the complexities of
our realities are and how we should address this virus.
The 4 key
issues we have raised in our press release last week were;
– A concerted effort has to be made to get out to do an education and awareness
campaign as many of our more vulnerable community members have no access to
social or traditional media. The only
way to get the message through to them is to do safe face to face engagement.
– the level of overcrowding in urban centres is high and at present there are
no isolation options for people to be able to go to. There must be a plan
around accommodation options for those who need it to access and at present one
option could be the many empty hotel rooms which could be repurposed.
Information – It needs to be recognised that the lifestyles of many of our
communities fundamentally differ from mainstream and the public information
created to change behaviour must reflect this.
of response – the response to this virus must be better co-ordinated and has to
include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community voices.. This governing body should be made up of a
cross section of our community. Cairns
Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders, health, political, bureaucratic, police
and others responsible for the response to Covid 19 must urgently work with our
community to ensure the formation of such a group.
This is an urgent call to action to come
around the table before the week ends and work with the community on a response
across sectors to Covid 19 and to address the issues that really impact on
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities in Cairns and surrounding
It’s an opportunity for Community
Controlled Health Services, representative bodies, government and other
community services to work together to give First Nations people the best
chance for survival.
We can be
contacted on the email addresses below.
Yours in Unity
Nerelle Nichol firstname.lastname@example.org
La-Donna Ballangarry-Kearins email@example.com
Leigh Harris firstname.lastname@example.org