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First Nations People Need to Lead COVID-19 Response in Western NSW

Media Release
Lidia Thorpe 24 Aug 2021

First Nations people have been a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine since December 2020, yet our vaccination rates in Western NSW are among the lowest in the country,” said DjabWurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe, the Greens Senator for Victoria.

When COVID-19 hit, governments around the country sent our communities body bags, not the PPE we asked for. I’m hearing reports of healthy people being forced to stay in overcrowded homes with people who have COVID-19. They need to stop blocking us from being healthy.

“People have been turned away from supermarkets and food has been withheld from families while staff underwent training. How much training to you need to deliver a box?

Walgett only has a four-bed hospital, the next nearest hospital is three hours away. Smaller towns are entitled to the same quality of healthcare and access to essentials as major cities. These communities have been neglected for decades and because of this First Nations people are getting sicker and dying earlier. It’s not good enough.

First Nations people know what’s best for our communities. Elders in western NSW are demanding more vaccines, nurses to support Aboriginal Medical Services and suitable accommodation so people can quarantine effectively and safely.

“Aboriginal children between the ages of 10 to 19 make up 40% of cases of COVID-19 in western NSW. We don’t know what impact COVID-19 has on growing bodies, but we shouldn’t be putting kids at risk. Children and teenagers must be included in vaccine targets now.” said Thorpe. 

Greens Senator for NSW Mehreen Faruqi said:

“Communities across New South Wales and the country have been massively let down by a botched-up vaccine rollout. This has had disproportionate and harmful impacts on First Nations and multicultural communities across our state.

Systemic racism has clearly played a role in the government’s failure to keep communities safe and an obsession with policing over public health measures that actually work.

Communities must be supported, not vilified and blamed as part of a strategy to distract from the government’s own failures.”

The Greens are calling for all eligible 12+ year olds to immediately be included in vaccination targets and rollout, adequate resourcing in terms of medical supplies and personnel, full access to health services and more intensive care units to meet higher demand.

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