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Services working overtime to support Western NSW mob facing COVID-19

Sarah Smit -

As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Far West and Western New South Wales, on-the-ground services are working overtime to support First Nations Peoples.

Currently the Shire of Central Darling has 39 active cases of COVID-19, all of which are in Wilcannia.

In neighbouring Bourke Shire, Enngonia cleared their last two COVID-19 cases in town on Wednesday, after a peak of around 20 cases at the beginning of September.

Sixty per cent of the roughly 150 people living in and around Enngonia are First Nations People. Of those living in the township itself, the number is closer to 80 per cent.

In the Bourke local government area, there were 18 active cases reported at 11am yesterday, and an additional 10 cases were reported by 8pm last night.

Those cases are isolating in their homes or isolation accommodation, supported by Local Health District's the COVID Care in the Community program.

Gomeroi man and Manager of Bourke Aboriginal Corporation's Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program, Joseph Clarke said there are ample services supporting communities.

However, Clarke identified communication as a challenge for services.

One organisation was refused entry into Enngonia whilst attempting to deliver tailored food packages. The service was told they did not have permission to enter the small community.

Other incidents have seen dogs getting to food packages left at residents' front gates due to confusion about the stay-at-home order.

"The communication is still being worked on especially between health services and community services on the ground because obviously, as you can imagine, it is quite busy," Clarke said.

"Every service is rushing to do everything that they can, so we don't want to step on anyone's toes, but they also need to let other services and other organisations agencies know where they're at and what they're doing."

Clarke stresses there is enough food for those in need.

Bourke Aboriginal Corporation is looking at expanding their services to support community's wellbeing in the face of lockdown.

"The next step is basically getting some social emotional wellbeing support out to the ... mob out in Enngonia, and also looking to expand our service out to Wilcannia," he said.

In NSW among the general population, 83 per cent have received their first dose of a vaccine and 54 per cent are fully vaccinated.

That's compared to a rate of 58 per cent of eligible Aboriginal people with a single dose and 31 per cent fully vaccinated.

The low rates are an ongoing concern, with Aboriginal healthcare professionals repeating concerns that many mob won't be vaccinated by Christmas.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Far West NSW and Western NSW have seen health care workers pull out all the stops when it comes to vaccination.

A collaboration between NSW Health, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and the Bourke Aboriginal Corporation Health service has seen vaccination rates in the Bourke Local Government area rise to 84 per cent for a first dose, and 65 per cent for a second.

In Central Darling Shire 78 per cent of people have their first dose with 60 per cent for fully vaccinated. However, the numbers are 10 per cent lower in Wilcannia.

Across the nation, 251,125 Indigenous people, or approximately 43.3 per cent of over 16s have had their first jab.

More than 152,646, or 26.3 per cent, have received a second dose.

Since eligibility was extended to Indigenous children over 12-years-old, 1,300 people in the 12 to 15-year-old age group have received their first vaccination dose.

By Sarah Smit


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