The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) today called upon the Premier for an urgent meeting to address the inevitable impact on Indigenous communities of the staged re-opening of Queensland’s borders, announced yesterday.
Matthew Cooke, Chairperson of QAIHC, expressed profound disappointment and concern that there has been no consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people before the announcement was made.
“There is currently a 30% gap in vaccination rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders”, Mr Cooke said.
“While the Government is aiming for 70% vaccination rates overall before border restrictions begin to be lifted on 19 November, the fact that Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population continues to have very low rates of vaccination seems to have been forgotten.
“The Government hasn’t talked to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the implications for our communities of borders re-opening.”
Mr Cooke said while he welcomed the certainty of a firm timeframe for the easing of cross-border movement, there was now a major imperative to address the potential impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are significantly at risk of COVID-19 due to chronic health conditions and overcrowded housing.
“Having a firm timeframe makes the fact that we face a significant COVID wave in Queensland very real”, Mr Cooke said.
“It helps us strengthen our communications with community and help our people prepare for what is coming.”
Mr Cooke said that the Queensland Government’s and Queensland community’s success in keeping COVID transmission very low has also been a barrier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people getting vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, many of our people are complacent about the need for vaccination because they haven’t experienced a COVID wave like those seen in Victoria and New South Wales, which have been devastating for Aboriginal people”, Mr Cooke said.
QAIHC is urgently seeking a meeting with the Premier to seek her agreement to expedite the development and resourcing of targeted COVID plans at the local and/or regional level.
“The needs of each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community will be different, and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Sector is well placed to quickly identify and implement the most effective locally-relevant vaccination mechanisms and pandemic responses”, Mr Cooke said.
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