Vaccine take-up in Central Australia’s Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands) is being sponsored by the local Aboriginal corporation.

The APY Lands’ vaccine rollout is taking place over August and, for the whole month, anyone who gets a COVID-19 jab is eligible to receive a free healthy meal from Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council Aboriginal Corporation’s outlets.

Mai Wiru CEO Dennis Bate said the incentive is well-placed to succeed.

“Normally anything with food makes people pretty enthusiastic, so I’m pretty confident it’s going to go well,” Bate told NIT.

The initiative was first suggested by the local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Nganampa Health, and has received significant support from Mai Wiru and SA Supermart.

“[Nganampa Health] were going to set up and do a sausage sizzle at the clinic to bring people in to have the vaccination,” Bate said.

“They wanted us to provide the food and sausages and fridge and everything so I said, ‘Well, why don’t we just provide a voucher with a meal? That way they can go wherever they want to get it, and you don’t have someone sitting there all day to do cooking to try and bring people in?”

Butter chicken curry, lamb curry, pasta or a vegetable dish with a bottle of water are on offer for voucher-holders.

Vouchers are redeemable at Mai Wiru’s Amata and Pukatja supermarkets, as well as their Pipalyatjara, Kaltjiti, Kanypi, Mimili and Indulkana stores.

Felix, store manager at the Mai Wiru Pipalyatjara Store, receives his COVID-19 vaccine. Photo supplied.

It’s been a team effort; SA Supermart provided a significant quantity of the meals for Mai Wiru to give out.

“People want to help and it’s good to be in a position where we can be a vessel where others can also help,” Bate said.

Meaning ‘good food’ in Pitjantjatjara, Mai Wiru is an unfunded non-profit Aboriginal grocer that supplies nutritious, affordable food to communities that are usually otherwise slugged with huge markups on fresh food.

Owning the trucks that bring the food in helps Mai Wiru keep freight costs down for customers.

“We have a buyer down at the Adelaide market. They buy directly from there on a Tuesday, it’s on a truck on a Wednesday and up on the land on a Thursday,” Bate said.

He said the food goes on the shelves without a mark-up.

Mai Wiru isn’t just pushing for everyone else to get vaccinated — the organisation walks the walk when it comes to vaccines too.

Bate is due for his second Pfizer jab in a week and said all of Mai Wiru’s frontline staff were vaccinated as soon as it was practicable.

The CEO said it’s about doing his bit for the rollout.

“With recent COVID-19 outbreaks across Australia reminding us that we as a country are not immune from the global pandemic, it is vital for us to ensure many of our vulnerable communities are protected,” he said.

“We’ve seen vaccine hesitancy and suspicion amongst some groups and therefore all have a part to play to encourage uptake.”

By Sarah Smit