NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: First Nations take action to prevent COVID-19 outbreak

feature tile text 'First Nations take action to PREVENT COVID-19 outbreak' AMSANT developed poster black top half white font test 'STAY SAFE!', bottom half red text 'Stay on Country, Care for Family' - middle vector hand giving thumbs up sign

First Nations take action to prevent outbreak

Community leaders are monitoring their borders closely as half the country remains in lockdown due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are on high alert after the latest outbreak of the coronavirus forced lockdowns in NSW, Queensland, WA and the NT.

In the top end, The Northern Land Council NLD (which oversees approximately 51,000 First Nations people that live in around 200 communities) has extended the suspension of permits to enter and remain on Aboriginal Land until 1pm on Friday, when the lockdown of the Greater Darwin region is expected to end. In a statement NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said “I congratulate all of our mob who have done a great job looking after families so far and this extension of the suspension of permits is another way we can do our best to make sure people stay safe.”

The organisation’s CEO, Marion Scrymgour, said that the move will not disrupt the delivery of essential services to remote communities. “We need to do whatever it takes to make sure our mob stays [safe]. Communities right across the NLC area have told us very clearly that we have to stop people traveling unless they are performing an essential service or function,” she said.

To view the SBS NITV article in full click here.

A Beagle Bay (WA) community member receives a coronavirus vaccine in April, 2021

A Beagle Bay community member receives a coronavirus vaccine in April 2021. Photo Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services. Image source: SBS NITV website. Feature tile image source: AMSANT developed poster.

In a rapid response to the emerging COVID-19 concerns in the NT the NLC has also produced new material in the Kriol language, spoken throughout much of the southern parts of the NLC area.

NLC CEO praised the efforts of the workers at the Meigim Kriol Strongbala program who prepared the translation: “The Meigim Kriol Strongbala mob have provided a really quick turnaround to call by the NLC’s Executive Council to get information out to our mob in their own languages in this very urgent situation. We’ve learnt from our experience when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 that people out bush need straight forward information in their own language.”

To view the NLC’s media release click here.

poster in Kriol black half at top, red at bottom, Aboriginal vector hand with thumbs up in the middle, text 'COVID-19? Wi garra holot maindim mijal! Stap la kemp! Translation: Weigim Kriol Strongbala'

COVID-19 poster in Kriol, Meigim Kriol Strongbala. Image source: munanga linguist (@MunangaLinguist) Twitter.

Getting messages out from city to bush

John Paterson, CEO AMSANT has released a statement about getting the COVID-19 vaccine messages out to remote communities:

“I’m not telling anyone anything you don’t know when I say things are pretty chaotic across the country with the COVID-19 pandemic at the moment. Not least here in the Territory with lockdowns in Darwin, and now Mparntwe/Alice Springs. Nevertheless, AMSANT member services are responding magnificently across the Territory despite limitations on movements and interruptions and shortages of vaccine supplies. We are also working closely with many other Aboriginal community-controlled across both areas to work constructively to get the best results for people in town camps and those country men and women who are homeless or are stuck in town.

At the same time, we are producing material to encourage people to stay away from town, look after their families and care for their communities. A big part of this, in the near to long term, is to ramp up our work in promoting vaccination among our mob. With confusing messages, this is what has led to what I call “vaccine caution”. Not “hesitancy” or “resistance”.  Blackfellas aren’t stupid—we want to think about things carefully—with caution.

An initial part of our communications is by producing a series of designs promoting vaccination and the benefits to all of us: our Elders, our Kids and our Communities. These are being distributed—free of charge—for our mob to use on social media, as posters, banners and T-shirts—you name it!

And, as a member of NACCHO, AMSANT are more than happy for our members across the First Nations to use as they think will work in your own areas. This might involve your local languages; local branding with your logos; local messaging. As far as we are concerned, they are yours to use, and we will assist in any way we can.

If you want to get digital copies of the [images developed by AMSANT]—and any material in the future—contact We would love to see material produced from other areas, as well.”

horizontal banner black yellow red with vector hand making 'V' sign in the yellow middle section, text 'VACCINATE! Protect our Elders!' - AMSANT logo in bottom left of the banner

One of the COVID-19 images developed by AMSANT.

Barriers to getting Indigenous people vaccinated

First Nations people are considered especially vulnerable to COVID-19, but health workers say they’re battling on many fronts to get them immunised. Listen to a ABC News video clip about vaccine update, featuring epidemiologist Dr Jason Agostino who has been an advisor on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to remote communities across Australia here.

snapshot from ABC News video, image of Aboriginal flay & text 'vaccine uptake, ABC logo news'

According to Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO NACCHO, the snap lockdowns have highlighted the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as vaccination rates remain low. Dr Casey said about 6% of Indigenous people are fully protected with both doses and despite frontline organisations spending months encouraging remote communities to come forward for vaccinations, mixed messaging around the AstraZeneca jab had put many people off. “The hesitancy has occurred because of the initial concerns around AstraZeneca and then the changes of birthdates (eligibility age brackets) continually over the last several weeks,” she told ABC radio.

Ms Casey said coronavirus immunisation rates were noticeably lower than previous rollouts of flu vaccinations and there was a clear need to improve messaging. “But we’ve seen just in the last couple of days an increase to around 5,000 vaccinations happening.”

To view The West Australian article in full click here.

Min Ken Wyatt against DoH COVID-19 Vaccination banner

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt AM PM. Image source: The West Australian.

AMA President on vaccine rollout changes

In an interview  earlier this week AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid commented on changes to the COVID-19 rollout:

“Yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister regarding the vaccine program after National Cabinet, indicates a really significant change in the vaccine program. It means that Australians under the age of 40, anyone over the age of 18, will be potentially able to access the AstraZeneca vaccine. The advice, though, from the AMA, and from doctors, is the same. The experts have said that the preferred vaccine under the age of 60 is the Pfizer vaccine and that is still the health advice. However, the PM’s announcement does mean that for those who really want their vaccine now or who think that they are happy to take the risks associated with AZ, that’s actually an option now for all Australians.”

“We, like the PM, recognise that there has been a desire in the community for access to AZ. People have been saying ‘I want it, I’m happy to make that call’. So, whilst the AMA does support ATAGI’s advice and says you should get Pfizer, this change is something that will free the vaccine up. It is an approved vaccine for anybody over the age of 18 and Australians in conjunction with their GPs can make that decision.”

To view the AMA media release containing a transcript of the interview with Dr Omar Khorshid click here.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid standing against blue banner covered in AMA logo

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid. Image source: ABC News.

Behaviour modification crucial to stop COVID-19

Hygiene habits are set but social distancing behaviours slip over time  One of the longest-running studies examining COVID-prevention behaviours shows hygiene changes have been sustained but not complex changes, like social distancing, with important policy implications. A longitudinal survey from just after the first lockdown in Australia in 2020 shows people have maintained simple hygiene measures in response to the pandemic but reduced their physical distancing over time, indicating that lockdowns may be required to stop outbreaks.

The study by University of Sydney researchers in the School of Public Health and Sydney Health Literacy Lab, Faculty of Medicine and Health, found people who tended to keep up distancing behaviours were more concerned about the pandemic, had stronger feelings of responsibility towards their community, and felt more confident about their ability to keep up the behaviours.

To view The University of Sydney media release click here.

AMSANT poster text 'social distancing in the NT, 10 footies, 6 boomerangs, 5 sea turtle, 1 small saltie' with line figures of people either end of the different quantities, yellow & blue striped background

Image source: The Conversation.

Medicine shortage campaign

Do you know what to do if your regular medicine becomes unavailable?

Medicine shortages can be stressful, but knowing where to go for information can help.

The TGA publishes a range of information about medicine shortages on their website. You and your health professional can use this information to discuss options for continued treatment if you are affected by a shortage.

Visit the Medicine Shortages Hub page on the TGA website here for the latest updates and information to help you access medicines during a shortage.

5 empty foil tablet packets, each packet with 10 empty tablets

Image source:

Research to improve First Nations’ health

The federal government has allocated $180 million to ground-breaking medical research projects around Australia to improve health outcomes, including for Australians with cancer, dementia, brain injuries, heart problems and neurofibromatosis. $20.1 million in new funding will support 16 projects from real-time cardiac monitoring, to after stroke care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, from medicine management for stroke patients to arm strength and rehabilitation.

Seven projects will receive a share of $7.4 million to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the 2020 Indigenous Health Research Grant Opportunity:

  • The University of Adelaide – to work with Aboriginal families and health and social service providers to assess the feasibility of a novel care package to reduce cannabis and alcohol use and social stress in pregnancy
  • The Council of Queensland Institute of Medical Research – to develop cultural sensitivity and capability through communication training for mental health professionals
  • University of NSW – to understand how cultural resilience impacts Aboriginal health and quality of life
  • University of Sydney – two projects: (1) to understand the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and wellbeing to health: Implementation of the What Matters 2 Adults wellbeing measure; and (2) VOICE – Validating Outcomes by Including Consumer Experience. Developing a patient reported experience measure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing primary health care
  • La Trobe University – Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future: Trauma-integrated perinatal care to improve health outcomes for Indigenous parents and infants in a rural setting
  • The Sax University – Indigenous Led Evaluation of Aboriginal Programs (ILEAP)

To view Minister Greg Hunt’s media release in full  click here.

portrait of Dr Yvonne Clark from Uni of Adelaide

Dr Yvonne Clark’s research will assess the feasibility of a novel care package to reduce cannabis and alcohol use and social stress in pregnancy. Image source: Centre of Research Excellence Safer Families website.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via NACCHO’s communication platforms.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting to the NACCHO website and once approved it will go live.dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard