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Ninth Indigenous person dies from COVID-19 in Western NSW

Darby Ingram -

An Aboriginal man has become the ninth First Nations person to die from COVID-19.

The man, who was in his 50s, died at Wellington Hospital shortly after arriving by ambulance.

He had received both doses of vaccination, but NSW Health authorities said he lived with underlying health conditions.

The Western Local Health District (LHD) chief executive Scott McLachlan said the news was "tragic" at a daily press conference.

"He had contracted COVID-19 days after receiving the second vaccination and didn't have full protection," he said

"Our sincere thoughts and condolences go to the man's family, friends and the entire community through such a tough period."

The state hit a 70 per cent double dose rate last week but as the NSW government plans to reopen, Indigenous vaccination rates are falling behind.

As of the last reporting period, seven new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the western region, with cases in Dubbo, Wellington, Bourke and Walgett reported.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is working closely to ensure "every Indigenous Australian has access to a vaccine".

"We do have a challenge where some people in certain communities might be hesitant about taking the vaccine," Minister Wyatt said.

"Whether it's because of misinformation that is circulating online, or because of historical mistrust.

"We are working hard with key stakeholders, including the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NAACHO) to address those concerns through tailored communication campaigns and direct engagement."

Minister Wyatt added that the message NIAA want to send is clear, that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and they're available now for free.

"Getting vaccinated is the best thing each of us can do for the health and safety of our communities," he said.

It was revealed in August, that the Morrison Government was warned about the detrimental impacts of a COVID-19 outbreak in Western NSW.

In the letter Maari Ma chief executive Bob Davis warned there was "nearly impossible" restricted access to towns, high rates of residential mobility, overcrowding and poor housing conditions.

"Our systems and services are ill-prepared, actions are too slow to be implemented, our responses have been substandard, existing resources and expertise are not sufficient," Davis wrote.

Davis urged the Minister to act immediately and offered ways to prepare the region for a possible outbreak.

Almost 4,000 First Nations people have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began, with over 400 being hospitalised.

All nine First Nations people that have died from the virus were lived in New South Wales.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney called the vaccination rate gap a "national shame".

"The Government needs to stop hiding and start acting," Burney said

"The Prime Minister promised First Nations Australians would be vaccinated by winter, but less than 50 per cent of First Nations people have even received the first dose.

"It's too little, too late â€" from a Prime Minister who made a promise to First Nations Australians but has failed to deliver."

By Darby Ingram

*This article has been amended to correctly reference Minister Wyatt as the Minister for Indigenous Australians.*

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