• Shane Phillips was born and bred in Redfern and he wants the community to stay safe. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Aboriginal Health Professionals are moving to boost low vaccination rates among inner-Sydney communities while residents are being urged to work together to contain the virus’ spread.
Jodan Perry, Lindy Kerin

9 Sep 2021 - 5:58 PM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2021 - 5:58 PM

Aboriginal communities around Redfern in inner-Sydney are rallying to stop the spread of COVID after a spike in infections over the past week

There are 74 active cases in Redfern and 105 in the Waterloo and Zetland area, with NSW Health authorities urging residents to come forward and get vaccinated.

Prominent local leader Shane Phillips, who was born and raised in the area, told NITV News of the concern within the community.

“Some people are really ill, lots of our own family and some of our own people I work with at Tribal [Warrior] are down with COVID,” he said.

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“I was one of the people who thought, this is not going to impact our people it’s not even real, but COVID’s real and it's hit our areas of Redfern Glebe, Waterloo, and it’s hit us hard,” he said.

LaVerne Bellear, the CEO of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service, which treats around 6500 patients from the area said she's worried about an increase in infections in young people.

Ms Bellear said that approximately 40 per cent of patients who have been diagnosed with the virus are 19 years old and younger.

“Lately we are noticing that our youth are COVID positive and that’s put an extreme pressure on our services and other services within the inner city,” she told NITV News.

“It’s escalating.”

The Bundjalung woman said the AMS is tailoring their messaging to get through to the younger generations.

Last month, a TikTok clip of workers at the Medical Service dancing and celebrating their vaccinations went viral. The post led to a number of young people ringing the Service to book their vaccinations.

Ms Bellear said she has noticed that the reality of the situation is hitting home with Elders within the community.

“We’ve got two lots of demographics. One lot of Elders are pro-vaccine they just want to keep everyone and their families safe,” she said.

“Then you’ve got other people here that are hesitant, you know through misinformation or they’ve read something and not quite sure, the vaccine was hurried through the trial period, all these types of things that have compounded people’s decisions.

“I think the game-changer is that the younger people, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren that have been diagnosed. It’s a pity that it had to come to this.”

New data from NSW Health shows that between 30-39 percent of Redfern residents are fully vaccinated while up to 69 percent have had their first dose.

The figures are even more concerning for Waterloo and Zetland which are between 30-39 percent vaccinated while only half of the eligible population of 30-thousand have had their first jab.

Importantly, half of the Elders in the community aged in their 80s have been fully vaccinated, according to Ms Bellear. She also noted that despite the hesitancy, the demands far outweigh the supply of available vaccines.

To ramp up vaccination and testing rates, the AMS has teamed up with the Sydney Local Health District. Specialist teams are heading to targeted buildings and areas to provide testing and support, while a Pfizer clinic was run at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence over the weekend.

“Our goal is to vaccinate people by the end of the year, you know Christmas time, let’s rejoice and be able to see our mob,” Ms Bellear said.

After witnessing the effects of the virus firsthand, Mr Phillips urged the community to pull together and do the right thing.

“Lots of people we know, enough people we know, have it, some are not as sick, some are really sick. We can't deny this. It’s here and It's impacting us,” he said.

“We have to stop it. That's all there is to it. We have to look after each other no matter what.”

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