• Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Executive Manager of Health and Wellbeing Shannon Drake leading the Covid-19 response for Shepparton's Aboriginal community. (Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative)Source: Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative
Though 10 of today's 79 new cases in Victoria are linked to the Shepparton cluster, the city's populous Aboriginal community continue to be COVID-19 free due to a proactive community response.
Nadine Silva

27 Aug 2021 - 5:15 PM  UPDATED 27 Aug 2021 - 5:15 PM

Victoria has recorded 79 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases today, 10 of which are linked to the cluster in the regional town of Shepparton.

Rumbalara health and wellbeing executive manager Shannon Drake said there are still no confirmed cases in the local Aboriginal community, which is the largest in the state second to Melbourne.

“We haven't had any confirmed positives to date in the Goulburn Valley area,” Ms Drake said.

In the nearby rural town of Mooroopna where Rumbalara is located, Ms Drake said the clinic had passed a testing milestone with more than 1061 tests conducted since Saturday.

Because people are confused about the tiered system, which grades exposure sites by the risk of transmission, Ms Drake said they are being proactive about getting tested.

“It's fantastic to see that they are engaged with the process and not waiting for any messages from the department to come out."

There are more than 827 exposure sites across the state, including four sites in Kyabram between Shepparton and Echuca, where a fully vaccinated aged care worker tested positive.

The woman last worked on 20 August at Wharparilla Lodge, a 92-bed residential aged care facility in Echuca, about 70 kilometres from Shepparton.

"Given the person involved had been fully vaccinated, and had PPE equipment on, was doing all the right things, given the high levels of vaccination of residents in the facility, we hope that the response will indicate one case and one case only," Victoria Health Minister Martin said.

With Echuca now a concern, Ms Drake said, “if we then need to redirect some of our resources across to the Njernda mob, we'll do that moving forward”.

“You know, this is a state response, not just a Goulburn response.”

For now, if a positive case is confirmed in Shepparton’s Aboriginal community, Ms Drake said they are well prepared. 

“Community has my mobile number, all they need to do is reach out to Rumbalara, we’ll respond.”

The region’s health service estimates around a third of Greater Shepparton’s population of 67,000 are currently in self-isolation, including 400 Goulburn Valley Health staff.

To support the health service, GVH Chief Executive Matt Sharp announced on Wednesday 50 Australian Defence Force personnel had been deployed to conduct door-to-door checks.

As the presence of the defence force can be triggering to some Aboriginal people, Ms Drake has been putting out messages to her local community offering support through this time. 

“If there are any concerns, we can answer them and support them in any way they wish,” she said.

The state's sixth lockdown is scheduled to end on September 2, but with a high number of mystery cases and people infectious in the community, it is expected to be extended.

"We will make all of those decisions based on the most up-to-date advice and at the moment, with another six days to go, it is too early to make that call," Mr Foley said.

There are 660 active COVID-19 cases in Victoria, 37 of which are in hospital, including 14 in intensive care, nine of whom are on a ventilator to breathe.

Shepparton Aboriginal community records no cases as Vic mob smash vaccination targets
No First Nations people have yet tested positive in Shepparton's growing cluster, while towns in the region are seeing encouraging vaccination rates.