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Protecting our Mob

District collaborates to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Aboriginal communities

A document reading: ‘Let's not panic the Mob, help us stop the spread in our Aboriginal communities’.
SydneyConnect Image: Protecting our Mob

Sydney Local Health District is working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

With one of the biggest urban Aboriginal populations in NSW, the District’s response is being guided by the Aboriginal Health, Population Health and Public Health units in collaboration with the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern and local Aboriginal communities.

“We have been working well together to protect our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities since the COVID-19 outbreak began,” Ricky Lyons, the District’s Deputy Director of Aboriginal Health, said.

The District has contributed to the development of culturally-appropriate resources to communicate key health messages about COVID-19 to Aboriginal communities.

“We need to keep our mob healthy. Elders, and others in Aboriginal communities who already have chronic health issues, are more likely to be infected with COVID-19. 

“So, it’s really important they have information about the steps to take to protect themselves and their families,” Mr Lyons said.

For example, information about the importance of hand hygiene, ways to practice social distancing and to be aware of mental health and wellbeing measures have been shared via a network of community-based Aboriginal organisations.

It’s also meant communicating changes to the way Aboriginal people gather, like Sorry Business, and how these changes are conveyed to the Aboriginal community.

“Culture and ceremony, like gatherings for Sorry Business, play an important role in Aboriginal communities but we needed to communicate that all activities have to be limited to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19,” Mr Lyons said.

The District, in collaboration with AMS Redfern, also set up a COVID-19 clinic at Redfern Health Centre in March which has now been expanded to include the testing of Aboriginal children.

An Aboriginal Health Worker is among the staff at the Clinic and is on hand to help answer any questions members of the community may have.

“Having the clinic nearby has taken the pressure off our doctors and nurses. We have about 6500 active patients and at least a 1000 of them are aged 55 and above and have co-morbidities that puts them at a high risk for COVID-19,” LaVerne Bellear, AMS Redfern’s chief executive, said.

“We’re very thankful for the support and resources from the District. It’s a true partnership. Without Sydney Local Health District we would not have been able to keep our doors open during this challenging time. 

“We’ve been able to successfully transition the AMS Service to providing telehealth to our patients,” she said.

AMS Redfern, and some of the District’s Aboriginal staff, are also working with the Public Health Unit to carry out contact tracing – should a COVID-19 case be confirmed in our community.

They’ll also assist rpavirtual, which is providing virtual care for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in home isolation, if needed.