Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities must be protected from COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday 19th March, 2020

On this Close the Gap Day, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says the Federal Government’s health contingency plans for the COVID-19 pandemic must extend to First Nations communities.

First Nations people and communities are particularly vulnerable to the potential impacts of COVID-19 due to remoteness, pre-existing chronic health conditions, already-stretched health services and housing that is often overcrowded or not fit for purpose.

A Taskforce, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19, with representatives from Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations has been convened.  It is examining how services may be provided to First Nations communities, including:

  • Preparing a national primary care response, by listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders;
  • Workforce planning;
  • Prompt access to testing and results;
  • Culturally appropriate and consistent communications and health care.

Prevention is key to the success of protecting remote Aboriginal communities and the ANMF supports calls by NACCHO to enact isolation of remote Aboriginal communities to minimise the chances of COVID-19 spreading into them.

Alongside the COVID-19 health emergency, long-standing barriers to the good health and wellbeing of First Nations peoples and communities remain entrenched. These barriers are largely attributable to the ongoing impacts of colonisation.

Good health arises from not just the physical well-being of an individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural well-being of the whole Community in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential as a human being thereby bringing about the total well-being of their Community (NACCHO, 2006).

“The ANMF is calling for an immediate commitment from all levels of Government to close gaps in health outcomes, education attainment, to improve standards of housing and services in remote communities and to reduce the disproportionate rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It should do this using a strengths-based, partnership approach with Aboriginal leaders,” Acting ANMF Federal Secretary, Lori-Anne Sharp, said today.

“The ANMF also supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is an important step towards reconciliation and provides a way for First Nations peoples to participate in our national Parliament.”

ANMF media release authorised by Lori-Anne Sharp, ANMF Acting Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.

The ANMF, with over 280,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ANMF media inquiries: Richard Lenarduzzi 0411 254 390