Victoria's Aboriginal health organisations are calling on the state and federal governments to provide them with more equipment and funding in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, as confirmed cases emerge in regional parts of the state with high Indigenous populations.
In Geelong, Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Operative CEO Lisa Briggs has said her organisation has been following the direction of the state's Andrews Labor government, as the messaging has been clearer than that at a federal level.
“I think the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which has been created under Scott Morrison’s leadership, if they were able to do a Coronavirus stimulus package to support us, that would be fantastic," Ms Briggs told NITV News.
“I think they need to talk to the frontline services and actually ask us what that looks like. I think that government needs to also talk to us some more to find out how they can support us more greatly on the ground.
"At the moment it seems a lot of it is going towards hospitals, and it’s going towards other outlets and other services that are mainstream, but there hasn’t been a very strong focus on Aboriginal affairs in general.”
There have now been confirmed cases in Geelong, Shepparton, Mildura, and Warnambool - all of which have large Indigenous communities.
In a videoconference held on Monday afternoon between members of the state and federal government, the Department of Health and Human Services, and CEOs of regional branches of the organisation, immediate access to gloves, goggles and gowns was demanded.
“We need to make sure that Aboriginal health services everywhere can receive and access equipment that they need as an absolute national priority,” said Helen Kennedy, acting CEO of the peak body Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO).
“Our phone in this afternoon with out Aboriginal community health services, every single service identified that that was the priority and they are running low on everything.
“We understand that it’s being prioritised, but services are going to be restricted as to what they can do until such time as personal protective equipment is made available.”
Although there have been no known cases of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people contracting COVID-19, Ms Kennedy reenforced the important role Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCHOs) have in providing culturally safe care.
“The reality is many Aboriginal people don’t access services until they’re often chronically unwell, so it’s really important that we make sure that our services are accessible and safe, and a lot of Aboriginal families would rather use out ACCHOs as their health service," Ms Kennedy said.
"It’s really, really important that every single ACCHO right across the nation get funding and resources to do whatever they need to do."