• Nurses who helped Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-Operative test 506 people over the weekend. (Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-Operative)Source: Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-Operative
No First Nations people have yet tested positive in Shepparton's growing cluster, while towns in the region are seeing encouraging vaccination rates.
Nadine Silva

23 Aug 2021 - 8:07 PM  UPDATED 23 Aug 2021 - 8:08 PM

Shepparton recorded 14 new Covid-19 cases today, bringing its total number of active cases to 34.

While the city is home to Victoria’s largest Indigenous population outside Melbourne, no cases have been detected in Greater Shepparton's Aboriginal community so far.

Speaking to NITV, Executive Manager of Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Health and Wellbeing Shannon Drake confirmed the good news. 

 "There are no positive cases in the Aboriginal community as advised to late."

In the nearby rural town of Mooroopna where Rumbalara is located, Ms Drake said she was pleased to see more than 506 people show up to get tested over the weekend.

“Those who’ve come through over the weekend are encouraging the rest of the mob to come in and are explaining how simple the process is,” Ms Drake said.

“It's wonderful engagement from our community.”

The personalised approach of Rumbalara staff is something Ms Drake said has been vital in the success of their pop-up clinic. 

They often have yarns with people in their cars to ensure they don’t leave with any questions unanswered.

“One of the community in the vehicle on Saturday said, 'If you weren't open, we wouldn't have got tested,'” Ms Drake said.

As a community-controlled organisation, Ms Drake said the holistic approach is crucial.

“It's not about just coming in and getting swabbed. It's (about) communicating with them in language so the kids don’t feel scared about it at all.”

Today, Ms Drake sent several Aboriginal nurses out to Elders who were unable to come in for testing, after an Elder showed up to the clinic yesterday in a taxi.

“We were able to adapt very quickly today to ensure that we can go to the Elders, and offer that service and see if they didn't have transport to come to us,” Ms Drake said.

Leading the pack

40 per cent of Victoria’s Indigenous population are vaccinated so far.

When it comes to vaccinations, Ms Drake said the biggest challenge is making sure the community is getting clear information, as messaging from the media has sometimes been confusing.

“We're having to unpack it, make sure it’s in local language, that it’s not too clinical or framed in a national context.”

First Nations peoples in Victoria are leading the country in vaccination rates, as more than 42,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and just under 25,000 are fully vaccinated.

CEO of Victoria's peak body for Aboriginal community health organisations Jill Gallagher AO told ABC News the success is due to partnerships forged between the Victorian Department of Health and community-controlled Aboriginal health services. 

Ms Gallagher also said the most obvious factor contributing to the success was access to the vaccines.

“The answer is having access to the vaccine and that's what I think has been missing in (the NSW) case," she said. 

Older people and nursing home staff are set to be prioritised in the vaccine rollout from next week, as aged care facilities race to meet the 17 September deadline to get staff and residents vaccinated. 

Ms Drake said, “we'll make sure that that is a priority as well”.

“Hopefully, there'll be a huge drive to get the vaccination rates up even further than 40 per cent in the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Ms Drake said she’s found younger people are often happy to receive their vaccinations in order to protect those most vulnerable around them, especially their Elders. 

However, she said Elders are a lot more hesitant.

“Our history has given us a lot of things to learn from,” Ms Drake said, “obviously, our Elders in the past year, they've had some challenging experiences”.

“We've had Elders that have been on missions. Our history can be an issue from their own experiences in terms of fear of getting a vaccination.” 

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