• Dudley Shillingsworth said he went days without his insulin, and is frustrated at the lack of support in Enngonia. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Residents of the tiny town, who are dealing with the loss of a much-loved local Elder, are struggling to access food and medications.
Keira Jenkins, Karen Michelmore

The Point
7 Sep 2021 - 6:53 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2021 - 7:03 PM

The tiny community of Enngonia is grappling with the sudden death of a much-loved Elder from COVID-19, hundreds of kilometres away in Dubbo Hospital, as virus infections continue to climb.

Uncle Dudley Shillingsworth said the passing of the woman has had a huge impact, as the community struggles with increasing COVID numbers and difficulties accessing food, medications and other basic necessities. 

“Everything is down at the moment, after we lost a very loveable old lady," Uncle Dudley Shillingsworth told NITV's The Point.

"We lost her from COVID and most of us are feeling low.”

Sally Shillingsworth said the pain of the loss was still raw.

“She was absolutely well-loved and had knowledge that you can never get back,” she said.

“And we couldn’t see her before she passed… it’s extremely hard.”

'Should have been the first vaccinated'

The community of 150 was only given access to the vaccine three weeks ago, and the Bourke Aboriginal Corporation Health Service has been going door to door encouraging people to get the jab.

Mr Shillingsworth said the remote town should have been given greater priority in the roll out.

“Aboriginal people should have been the first ones vaccinated,” he said.

“The government, they don’t worry about us here out in this little community.”

He said the community was struggling to access basic necessities - he said he went four days without his insulin, and people trying to deliver food and supplies to the community had been turned around by police.

Race to vaccinate

The Bourke Aboriginal Corporation Health Service has been working to get as many people vaccinated as possible since it got its first Pfizer doses three weeks ago.

The number of positive COVID cases in western and far western NSW continues to climb towards 1000 cases, with another three cases recorded in Bourke in the past day.

The health service's senior Aboriginal health practitioner Mary Jones said vaccine hesitancy had been an issue, along with the remoteness of the communities.

She said misinformation about the vaccine - that it would kill people, or religious connotations - was creating unnecessary fear in communities.

"It just brings fear into a lot of people so they can't make that informed decision," Ms Jones told The Point.

"I think once we inform them, give them the correct information - what does Pfizer do and how it can help them -  when they get the correct information, they make that decision.

"You do get some who come back in and get it, which is great."

Financial incentives would help

The health service's Claire Williams said the service had gone door-to-do explaining the benefits of the vaccine to the community.

But she said financial incentives may help boost vaccination rates further.

“We’ve tried other incentives and we've tried giving the correct information," Ms Williams said.

"I think for those that are ‘on the fence’, some kind of financial incentive will assist them in making that decision to get vaccinated.

“I think that will assist the community to come out and get vaccinated, especially those that are just not sure.”

'No food, no medication'

Phillip Eulo grew up in Enngonia but now lives in the NSW Hunter Valley. He is deeply concerned for his family in the western NSW town.

“My brother rang me, he was distressed because they hadn’t had their tablets for days in Enngonia and they had no food,” he said.

“They got a box of food, a hamper they call them, with just tin food in it and noodles and green tea and chai latte.”

Mr Eulo’s daughter, Ebony Eulo started a GoFundMe page when she was told of her uncle’s distress, hoping to get fresh food to her family in Enngonia.

But she was told she wasn’t allowed to deliver supplies to the community under COVID-19 restrictions.

She said the basic food hampers being delivered to families in the community just aren’t enough.

“There’s no fresh meat,” she said.

“In some of the boxes, for example, for five adults in one household and three children, there was four potatoes and two carrots.

“It’s just not enough food.”

Uncle Dudley Shillingsworth is looking to the future, and is hopeful his community will continue to get vaccinated and bounce back.

“I think that we can pull through this if we all get vaccinated,” he said.

“We have very resilient families out here, they’ll get up and we’ll get back one day at a time.”

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