NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alert No 10 of 10 March 17 : Contributions updates from our CEO Pat Turner and Dr Mark Wenitong plus messages from Debbie Kilroy and Thema Plum who have tested positive


In this special Corona Virus edition 10

1.The Guardian: Pat Turner Calls on the army for community help

2.The Australian Community visits to communities banned

3. SkyNews :NT Bans travel to remote Indigenous communities

4.Debbie Kilroy tests positive

5.DR Mark Wenitong update Cape York Communities : Today’s update

6.Thelma Plum Tests positive

7. Preventing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Read all 10 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1.The Guardian : Pat Turner Calls on the army for community help

Australia’s peak Aboriginal health group, representing hundreds of health care services, wants state and territory governments to make urgent arrangements to protect Aboriginal people in remote areas who are highly vulnerable to Covid-19.

From the Guardian 

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (Naccho) said governments should consider deploying the army in remote areas, where health workers face major challenges in containing any outbreak, including a lack of access to equipment, testing and urgent emergency care.

“Everybody has to step up, that’s how serious this is,” the Naccho CEO, Pat Turner, said.

“State and territory governments need to do everything they can to stop this getting into our communities. If this gets into any remote community, there will be a high rate of deaths. Our communities will be devastated, because of the already low levels of health.

“The army is our friend in this situation. They have the necessary resources, and we should be briefing army health co-ordinators and have them on standby to be deployed [to places that] we have difficulty reaching, helping us manage this pandemic,” Turner said.

Remote-area health workers urgently need more personal protective equipment, she said, after receiving reports that clinics in the Kimberley region of Western Australia had received only two sets each of masks, gloves and gowns for healthcare staff to use.

Turner said the equipment is essential for remote workers because timely testing is not available and they are relying on clinical diagnosis of Covid-19.

“It can take up to two weeks for tests to be returned, and in that time, if someone has it, the whole community will get it,” Turner said.

Local and state governments must prepare isolation and quarantine centres, she said, because “self-isolation is just unrealistic where there’s overcrowding in housing because of decades and decades of government neglect.

The state governments need to be working with local communities to identify structures that can be adapted for isolation, and they need two kinds: one for suspected cases, and the other for people who are known to have it.”

Naccho is providing a briefing for the Aboriginal taskforce on Covid-19, which will report to the national cabinet today .

“The national cabinet meeting tomorrow should realise the seriousness of this for Aboriginal Australia and make sure the necessary resources are provided immediately,” Turner said.

“We need information urgently on what to do in every situation. Our health services need to know.”

Naccho represents 143 Aboriginal community-controlled health services across the country.

On the weekend, the Northern Land Council (NLC) suspended all existing non-essential permits to visit Aboriginal lands, and said it won’t grant any new ones until further notice.

“The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people,” the CEO, Marion Scrymgour, said.

“This decision will not affect the permits issued to doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, council workers and others that provide essential services for Aboriginal people out bush,” she said.

The NLC and Naccho have both called on the federal government to consider the concerns of the traditional Aboriginal owners of Kakadu national park, who say it should close immediately. Parks Australia has been contacted for comment.

On the Tiwi Islands, the weekend’s AFL grand final and art fair, which usually draw thousands of visitors, were closed to outsiders.

The Northern Territory government said it is implementing current national advice for self-isolation of 14 days for all international arrivals and a ban on cruise ships for 30 days. Government schools across the Northern Territory will remain open.

It has produced health announcements in nine Aboriginal languages, including Warlpiri and Yolngumatha, and set up a hotline for territory residents: 1800 008 002.

There is one confirmed case of Covid-19 in the Northern Territory: a tourist who is currently in Royal Darwin hospital.

2.The Australian : Community visits to communities banned

From The Australian March 17

Aboriginal communities across northern and inland Australia are moving to protect themselves from the coronavirus by restricting contact with the outside world.

The Northern Territory on Monday announced a ban on all non-essential visits to about 70 ­remote settlements, endorsed by the major Aboriginal land councils. It comes as leaders in parts of Western Australia’s Kimberley ­region prepare to isolate their communities for several weeks and move frail relatives to distant outstations.

Several Queensland state ­departments have already suspended bush travel, with Aboriginal community heads calling for a lockout of all but essential service

South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands announced strict entry rules ­earlier this month with the support of Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.

However, doubts are emerging about whether indigenous people will respect movement restrictions, and if they could be attracted to towns by stimulus handouts.

Experts think indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they suffer higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and rheumatic heart disease. Research after the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic showed indigenous people were more than eight times more likely to be hospitalised.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner assured remote Territorians that banning non-essential travel did not mean leaving them to fend for themselves. “Everything you need to be healthy and safe, you will have,” he said.

“The people that you need to be there will be there. But the health advice to us is also clear: you are safest in your home communities.

“To protect you, we are keeping non-essential people away from you. If you don’t need to travel out of your community, then don’t. Just like the rest of us, you are safer in your home community.”

The dirt road to the West Australian town of Balgo will be closed on Sunday for at least five weeks after Wirrimanu Council members decided it was the only way to keep people safe. Should COVID-19 still threaten their community, they plan to move elders even further into the bush.

WA Chief Health Officer ­Andrew Robertson said discussions were under way with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and St John Ambulance about transport from remote areas.

“It’s obviously going to place a strain on some budgets, but these are unusual circumstances,” he said. “We expect that mild cases could be managed at home.”

Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher said it was now “too dangerous” to allow unrestricted movement into the Cape York ­indigenous community.

Additional reporting: Michael McKenna

3.SkyNews: NT Bans travel to remote Indigenous communities


4.Debbie Kilroy tests positive: her message 

SATURDAY: We were on the same plane as Peter Dutton earlier so we had to be tested for coronavirus on Saturday when we arrived back from the USA. We have now been quarantined and awaiting test results. I am confused as to why the PM & other Cabinet members were not quarantined after being in contact with Dutton & we were.

UPDATE: Tests came back for #COVIDー19 & Neta-Rie Mabo & I have coronavirus.

We are not being hospitalised as there’s limited beds available. We are the first ones being quarantined in community.

Yes it’s frightening but I’m healthy & so is Neta. We should be fine after 14 days ♥️ Take care of yourselves plz cause this virus is serious for our most disadvantaged people in our communities.

The way to slow the spread of this virus is to self quarantine. Plz take responsibility and self quarantine.

Take the advice from medical professionals not politicians who are playing politics with our lives.

Take care of yourselves 😍


5.DR Mark Wenitong update Cape York Communities


6.Thelma Plun Tests positive

Australian singer-songwriter Thelma Plum has expressed concern around the impact of coronavirus on vulnerable communities after testing positive for the disease.

Plum says she is “doing really good” while in Brisbane Metro North Hospital after being diagnosed on Sunday.

One of Queensland’s 68 cases, she has not indicated where and when she may have caught the disease but said doctors indicted she will remain in hospital until at least Friday.

The proud Indigenous woman urged prioritisation of Australia’s most vulnerable people in response to the crisis.

“I cannot stress enough how much this virus has the potential to severely harm our communities (particularly our Indigenous communities),” she wrote on Instagram.

“We need to know that the public health system is going to care for our communities.”

Plum said she was worried about disadvantaged people spreading the disease while being unable to stay home from work when infectious.

“Schools need to be shut down but there needs to be structures in place that can ensure low income families and vulnerable people aren’t being left in the dark.

“People need to work from home and if they aren’t able to, the government needs to step in (and) fin

7. Preventing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Example of our ACCHO Info sharing with communities

There is greater risk of COVID-19 causing serious illness in individuals living in communities with chronic disease, such as remote Indigenous communities.


What individuals can do

To limit the spread of Coronavirus to and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, individuals are asked to take the following precautions:

  • Do not travel to a remote community unless necessary
  • To prevent germs spreading, wash your hands often with soap and water or with disinfectant rub for about 20 seconds
    • Clean hands are essential before eating or preparing food, and after going to the bathroom
  • Avoid touching your own eyes, mouth and nose
  • Shower regularly and practice good hygiene
  • Avoid touching other people (hugs, handshaking) unless absolutely necessary
  • Maintain your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing as much as possible
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you are concerned and have a fever, cough, sore throat and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention but call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

What community leaders can do

Community leaders can:

  • Consider options for restricting non-essential travel in and out of communities.
  • Identify the most effective way to communicate messages to your community (eg. Shop noticeboards, men’s groups, mother’s groups, schools, Facebook, community radio)
  • Promote good hygiene practices and make available handwashing/hygiene facilities throughout the community.

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