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Close the Gap Day and COVID-19

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 19 Mar 2020

COVID-19 has the potential to cause severe harm to First Nations communities particularly in regional and remote areas, older Australians, disabled people and people with mental health issues.

“Preventing and slowing the spread of the virus to First Nations communities must be a priority given that First Nations communities already suffer higher rates of chronic and respiratory illness than the general population,” Senator Rachel Siewert, spokesperson on First Nations issues said.

“We have a narrow window of opportunity to prevent the spread of the virus in First Nations remote communities.

“We already know that current policy approaches have failed to Close the Gap in health and education outcomes. We cannot get this wrong at such a critical time and Government must listen to the experts particularly First Nations health experts and be led by First Nations communities.

“The Australian government must exercise its duty of care.”

On Close the Gap Day the Greens support First Nation calls for:

  • Urgent distribution of more protective personal equipment for health workers in remote areas which is necessary for health workers relying on clinical diagnosis
  • Preparation of isolation and quarantine centres on country that can be used for suspected cases and diagnosed cases
  • Information campaigns provided to communities and health services in language and through various communications channels
  • All health services delivered must be culturally safe and appropriate
  • Consider the role that may be played by the ADF in supporting the crisis response in remote areas where health workers face major challenges in containing the outbreak
  • Ensure that essential supplies are available in all communities
  • Ensure that everyone who needs and should have access to income support gets income support
  • Consider further restrictions on non-essential travel including the closure of Kakadu national park and other areas as required
  • Urgent support for communities that have lost income due to closure eg tourism and art sales
  • Suspension of CDP mutual obligations

Disabled First Nations peoples need a specific and further response such as funding for the First Nations Disability Network for proactive regular contacting disabled First Nations peoples.

Specific supplies such as incontinence pads and PEG feeding must be guaranteed.

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