• The NLC Chair says the government needs to think beyond the big cities when making important decisions (Supplied)Source: Supplied
One of Australia's most powerful Aboriginal Land Councils has backed calls for the Northern Territory to defy the national plan to relax interstate travel.
Guy McLean

10 Sep 2021 - 8:53 AM  UPDATED 10 Sep 2021 - 9:16 AM

The Northern Land Council says the Territory’s current border restrictions should remain in place until 90 per cent of eligible Aboriginal residents have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Council, which advocates for landowners in the Top End, backed the stance of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) which calls for the high vaccination rates before the Territory opens up.

“Eighty per cent might be okay for the big cities out east but it is too low to protect Aboriginal people in remote communities. We need a minimum of 90 per cent,” NLC Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists state border restrictions can be removed at 80 per cent under the national plan, while NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said this figure could be a potential trigger for allowing travellers returning from COVID-19 hotspots to home-quarantine.

Mr Bush-Blanasi said both Federal and Territory governments needed rethink their roadmaps to reopening and prioritised the lives of Aboriginal Terriorians.

“For us this is about our lives, our people," he said.

"The government has to think beyond the big cities when they are making important decisions that affect our mob out bush. Higher vaccination rates out bush would also protect the many non-Aboriginal people that work on our communities and homelands.”

Mr Bush-Blanasi demanded more detail around the vaccine rollout, insisting more localised data was needed to better understand how it was progressing in the bush.

“We must have better information on vaccination at the regional level in the Northern Territory so we know how we are tracking.

"We don’t need to name and shame individual communities but if we don’t know what is happening in regions outside Darwin and Alice Springs then we won’t know where we need to focus and target our information promoting vaccination for our mob.”

Covid could ‘rip through… like wildfire’: AMSANT

The growing push for border travel restrictions to remain in place until vaccination rates improve comes amid harrowing scenes in far-western and western New South Wales, where Covid-19 continues to run rampant in Aboriginal communities.

Enngonia community feeling forgotten amid COVID outbreak
Residents of the tiny town, who are dealing with the loss of a much-loved local Elder, are struggling to access food and medications.

“With uncontrolled infections in other states, we are in an emergency situation with a small window of opportunity before the virus enters our borders,” AMSANT CEO John Paterson said.

“A target of a 90-95 per cent vaccination rate for all Aboriginal Territorians 12 years and older is required if we are to prevent or minimise the deadly toll of COVID in our communities.

“The national target of 80 per cent vaccinations of eligible adults 16 years and older would be a disaster in our communities, which have a much younger age profile and would equate to only about 55 per cent of the total Aboriginal population vaccinated.

“At that level the virus would rip through our community like wildfire. With one of the world’s highest rates of chronic disease and very overcrowded housing, we cannot risk the devastation this would cause,” he said.

Communities with lowest jab rates to be targeted in vaccine blitz
Just 21.86 per cent of the First Nations population aged over 16 has been fully vaccinated.