Thursday, 25 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is ensuring the COVID-19 vaccine rollout meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
I thank the member for O'Connor for the work that he does in his electorate with Indigenous communities and organisations, and for the advocacy that he undertakes on their behalf.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the worst health conditions, and we would expect the figures for COVID impacting them to be much more significant than what they have been. But we need to remember that there has not been a single death within the Aboriginal community from COVID and that, as of 1 March, only 150 have tested positive to COVID-19.
Yesterday I had the privilege of having a vaccine with the member for Barton. We both attended the Winnunga Aboriginal Medical Service, along with Tom Calma and elders Loretta Halloran and Caroline Hughes. We sat there and we talked about the importance of why we need to encourage Indigenous Australians to have the vaccine. I don't know about the member for Barton; it was fine at the time but I felt it later on in the afternoon! The work that the Aboriginal medical services are doing is absolutely important and the work that my agency is doing with Minister Hunt's agency in coordinating the effort geographically across this nation for First Nations is absolutely critical and important.
We have 32 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations currently involved in the distribution of the vaccine to over 55's and to those with extreme chronic conditions, because we want to protect as many as possible. We are building to around 100 services for around 300 sites across Australia, and that is important. Messages are going out in language. There are 15 languages that the Department of Health, working with NACCHO and the community controlled health sector, are using to ensure that those messages go across the Indigenous media networks so that people are informed of the opportunities that they have. And we're working very closely with each state and territory to ensure that we reach as many people as possible. The Morrison government will continue to work with all of those who play a very critical role. But I do want to acknowledge the Minister for Health for the way in which he has given significant focus to the needs of Indigenous Australians.
During the break, I would really appreciate any members who are out in their electorates and meeting with Aboriginal communities to encourage them to access the services. The Aboriginal grapevine will be effective, but you will play an important role in helping us to keep Indigenous Australians safe. Thank you.
Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper. And, as we go—and I'm sure that the Leader of the Opposition will join with me in saying this—next week is the centenary of our RAAF, and we wish them a very pleasant celebration of that key milestone.