Thursday, 25 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Will the minister please update the House on the work the Morrison government is undertaking to ensure access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Indigenous communities?
I want to thank the member for Robinson for her continued interest in this area, but also for the work that she and her family have done in remote communities in the Northern Territory and the work she continues to do in New South Wales.
To date, Australia has been lucky with the COVID-19 pandemic. What we anticipated as a major issue for Indigenous communities has not had that impact. I want to thank the officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health and the National Indigenous Australians Agency for the way in which they have worked together with both me and my colleague the Minister for Health. The minister established an Indigenous advisory body to provide examples and directions of the activity that needs to be undertaken to ensure that Indigenous Australians have access to the vaccines and, more importantly, to information and to the support services that will prevail in the rollout of the vaccine.
This advisory body is jointly chaired by the Department of Health, so it is a co-designed model on which the chair of NACCHO, Pat Turner, and the officer from the Department of Health have worked together. That has the endorsement of the Communicable Diseases Network and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. What they are doing is rolling out culturally safe, comprehensive approaches to ensuring that any Indigenous Australians from homeland communities or rural and remote communities have access to the treatments and the vaccines. And all Indigenous Australians will have the opportunity of accessing the vaccine program.
Indigenous Australians aged over 55 will be part of phase 1b, which means we start the process of ensuring that our people are protected against COVID-19. That rollout will require a comprehensive approach from the community controlled health sector, who provide an invaluable service on the ground. That will be done in partnership with GP clinics that are established in particular locations. The vaccine access will mean that we will see families enrol and have the vaccine, and the record of the vaccine will be kept as part of that process.
Right at the beginning, we were proactive. We used the Biosecurity Act to protect Indigenous communities across this nation. My colleague, in all the work he has done, has worked closely with me. Our considerations were to ensure that there was not the level of impact we thought would happen. That result has manifested in the very low figures we see within our community.
I want to thank everybody who has been involved. It is a great outcome, and it means that we will have better opportunities in the future in the way in which we collaborate.