• WA Health Minister confirmed on Friday that no Aboriginal person in the Kimberley had tested positive following an outbreak in the region. (instgram)Source: instgram
Indigenous remote health organisations are urging the federal government to invest more funding to provide vital vaccine and COVID-19 related health messaging to boost already stretched resources.
Sarah Collard

24 Feb 2021 - 10:49 PM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2021 - 10:49 PM

There are concerns Indigenous health authorities are using their own under-resourced facilities to provide vital information in local languages to remote communities.

The coronavirus vaccine rollout officially began on Monday with vaccines expected to start reaching communities within weeks.  

Frontline health workers are translating COVID-19 vaccine health messaging into more culturally appropriate language according to Brenda Garstone, CEO of Yura Yungi Medical Service, in Halls Creek in the East Kimberleys of WA. 

"We're left to our own devices at the moment." Ms Garstone told NITV News. 

"We are just taking it upon ourselves because our community are asking for that information and we are literally drawing upon our own resources which is having an impact on our current resource system because this is an additional task on top of our everyday job with dealing with primary health."

Ms Garstone said ensuring the community is educated about the vaccine rollout and translating materials into local and culturally appropriate languages is stretching their capacity. 

"We really need to give as much information as possible to really empower our community members with the right information and knowledge," she said.

Ms Garstone said many in the community are hesitant about receiving the vaccine and having access to culturally appropriate and understandable information is essential. 

"They are concerned and very worried because obviously this is quite foreign to them, even the concept of COVID-19 - it's another introduced disease to our people,"

'Disconnect' between federal government and local communities 

Ms Garstone is calling on the federal government for more funding for local health services in remote communities. 

She said while there had been excellent collaboration between Indigenous health authorities, there needs to be greater information sharing between federal health authorities and remote communities. 

"It feels like there is a disconnect," she said when seeing conferences on the news. 

"On the ground there is nothing that is connecting with us with how are we going to implement this on the ground? We are happy to lead but we need to be supported better." 

She is urging the federal government to move quickly to ensure culturally appropriate accurate information is readily available for Indigenous communities. 

"We have a bit of time to launch into this campaign but then we need to adapt it for our audience on the group so that is when we need extra support, funding."

Ms Garstone said she expected the coronavirus vaccines to start being available in the community from late March to early April.  

Dr Dawn Casey, the co-chair of the Indigenous COVID-19 advisory group to the federal government, said funding is expected to be boosted in coming weeks.

"The government is going to provide money to ACCHOS to assist with their communication campaigns to the community," she said.

"They'd always factored in that they would need to provide funding assistance to ACCHOs to roll out the vaccine for communications and any additional staff they might need." 

Dr Casey said information on COVID-19 vaccine messaging is being prioritised by health organisations and governments for Aboriginal Health Clinics. 

She is urging any Aboriginal Controlled Health Organistions with concerns to reach out to NACCHO to ensure issues are addressed. 

The federal health department currently has information on its website with key coronavirus vaccine messaging to target Indigenous Australians and those living in remote communities. 

Vaccine for COVID-19 now rolling out across the country
The COVID-19 vaccine roll out is one of the largest logistical challenges the nation has faced and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders will be first in line to receive it.