Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Vaccination

4:52 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] I rise to contribute to this important discussion on the matter of public importance. We've known since the start of the pandemic that First Nations people have an increased risk of adverse effects from COVID-19. We've known since the start of the pandemic that we're walking into a crisis. We are no strangers to dealing with deadly infectious diseases to which we have no immunity. We survived disease brought by the colonisers, like smallpox, which killed hundreds of thousands of my people. Our people, communities and organisations mobilised our COVID-19 responses early and effectively. Remote communities organised big return-to-country reparations efforts to keep people well on country. Our self-determined organisations produced health promotion materials in language to keep our communities safe and healthy. The botched vaccine rollout—and, yes, it has been botched and still is being botched by Mr Morrison, the so-called Prime Minister—has been marred by inconsistent messaging and inadequate vaccine numbers. Mr Morrison's failure to secure enough vaccines has led to serious and valid concerns about how low rates of immunity are affecting Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia.

As I mentioned, our people know how to keep our communities healthy. In Victoria, my home state, Aboriginal health services have helped get 58 per cent of First Nations people vaccinated. This confirms that we've always known self-determination works. When First People are in the driver's seat, we achieve great things, and yet just last month the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation was excluded from a meeting of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce. If that's not telling you that First Nations don't matter to the Morrison government, then I don't know what is.

First Nations health services need to be included in the conversation. We have solutions, and, resourced properly, we can keep our communities safe. We can look after one another. We just need the vaccines to be able to do it. The Morrison government has said since the start of this pandemic that vaccinating First Nations communities was a priority. Well, start acting like we are the priority: get everyone vaccinated and get your plan sorted out to save people's lives.


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