“While news of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ballarat is really concerning, it is an important reminder to remain vigilant in looking after ourselves and our families to stop the slow of the spread of this virus, especially now since it’s entered regional Victoria.
We know communities have been working hard to minimise any infections which has been quite successful to date, but we are entering a very challenging period. We are seeing alarming rates of community transmission – unlike the first lockdown period.
To protect our loved ones and our Elder Aboriginal Communities, people must continue to stay home where they can, wear masks, practice good hygiene, practice physical distancing, and follow the limits for public gatherings
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO recognised that seeing triple digit spikes of COVID-19 was an anxiety provoking and uncertain time for many Aboriginal Communities in metropolitan Melbourne and now regional Victoria, but said support was available for those that need it. See Part 1 below
” We acknowledge the work of Black Lives Matter protest organisers in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in protests held so far, and do not link existing cases of COVID-19 to previous protests. Despite this, as doctors we are bound to remind everyone that social distancing is still the best way to prevent the further spread of this potentially deadly new virus.
COVID-19 is currently spreading through communities in Victoria and in New South Wales, and restrictions on mass gatherings need to be respected.”
Australian Indigenous Doctors Association press release See Part 2 Below
Part 1 VACCHO Press Release
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has strongly urged Aboriginal people to stay home where they can, to get tested, and to self-isolate at home for 14 days while waiting for test results after two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were detected in Aboriginal Communities in Ballarat.
While face coverings are now mandatory for people living in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when leaving their home, Ms Gallagher said that face covering should also be considered in rural areas, especially in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.
“We can’t force anyone to wear a mask outside of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, but as the peak Aboriginal health and wellbeing organisation we strongly encourage our communities in rural Victoria to wear a face covering if they own one. Particularly when you cannot apply physical distancing. Face coverings have been shown to reduce the risk of transmission and should be considered earlier rather than later for our mob,” Ms Gallagher said.
If people have symptoms of COVID-19, Ms Gallagher said it was important that they remain home and get tested no matter how mild.
“Symptoms could include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste,” Ms Gallagher said.
“Go home straight after your test and self-isolate while you wait for the results. This usually takes 1-3 days. No heading to the shops or fishing with your mates until you have your results.
“If you are a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must isolate at home for 14 days to stop the virus spreading to other people. That’s really important.”
During this uncertain time, Ms Gallagher said staying connected with family, friends and your community was important.
“Some ways you can do this are calling people for a yarn on the phone, talking about the community and checking if they are OK, talking about the virus and how to stop the spread, connecting with family and friends on social media and sharing your tips on social media #KeepOurMobSafe,” she said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at greater risk of coronavirus if they:
- Are aged 50 years and over with chronic medical conditions.
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Are aged 70 years and over.
A one-off payment of $1,500 is available to workers who are unable to work during their isolation, have no income during this period, and are not entitled to any paid sick leave, special pandemic leave or other income support.
The Victorian Government will now extend the scheme to ensure that as soon as a person is tested, they will be eligible for a $300 support payment from the Victorian Government – as long as they meet the eligibility of the existing scheme.
People should call 1800 675 398 (option 8) to register for support.
There are three main sites in Ballarat where people can get tested:
- Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative, 108 Armstrong Street Nth Ballarat, 03 5331 5344
- Ballarat UFS Respiratory clinic, corner Merz St and Eleanor Dr, Lucas (ph. 4311 1571 for an appointment).
- A pop up testing site is also available at the Ballarat Senior Citizens Centre, 16 Little Bridge Street (ph. 1800 054 172 for an appointment) operated by Ballarat Community Health.
Clinics around the country to assess people with fever, cough, a sore throat, or shortness of breath.
These are being rolled out gradually. If there is not one in your area yet visit your state or territory health department website for more information on fever clinics and other services.
Find out if there is a clinic near you and how to register for an appointment:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Part 2. The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) unreservedly supports peoples’ right to protest and acknowledges the historic and ongoing role that protest has played in changing laws and practices that have discriminated against Indigenous peoples.
From the 1938 Day of Mourning and the Freedom Rides to the Wave Hill Walk Off, the AIDA remembers those who stood up for equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
We also understand the historic devastation that unchecked viral contagions can bring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For the sake of our Elders and most vulnerable, AIDA urges people not to attend the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest marches in Sydney until the risks of further spread of COVID-19 can be mitigated.
We acknowledge the work of Black Lives Matter protest organisers in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in protests held so far, and do not link existing cases of COVID-19 to previous protests. Despite this, as doctors we are bound to remind everyone that social distancing is still the best way to prevent the further spread of this potentially deadly new virus.
COVID-19 is currently spreading through communities in Victoria and in New South Wales, and restrictions on mass gatherings need to be respected.
The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association recognises the legacy of racism and calls for greater commitment to justice reinvestment strategies, diversion programs and culturally appropriate approaches that address the core issues of injustice raised by the BLM movement.
We do not encourage any action that will increase the risk of COVID-19 entering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
We will continue to support the community’s rights to engage in advocacy and encourage people to protest by other means during this health crisis, due to the inherent danger posed by mass gatherings at this time.