Supporting ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Individuals already experiencing ill-health are at an increased risk of severe disease from exposure to COVID-19, and we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities already experience a burden of disease much greater than other Australians.
While current instructions on COVID-19 apply to all Australians, the ACT Government is working directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations to ensure critical services that are culturally appropriate continue to be delivered at this challenging time.
The impacts of social isolation and restrictions to movement on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, a people who are highly mobile, highly engaged with community events, and so strongly connected to family, land, and culture, is recognised by the ACT Government.
Community input and suggestions are welcome on how we can adapt and provide flexible and novel solutions to minimise negative consequences to mental and social wellbeing during this time while protecting each other’s physical health.
It is important we recognise the strength of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and the wealth of cultural knowledge they bring to this country. It is critical we protect and support the community to look after one another and get through this challenging time together.
We are working with community to raise awareness of measures to prevent exposure and the importance of social distancing.
Key ACT Government and community controlled services are still operating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Canberra, and service users are being encouraged to check websites and call ahead to see what options are available for service access, including flexible arrangements to support individuals to remain home and with family.
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Winnunga Nimmityjah)
Winnunga Nimmityjah run clinical and social health services, however due to high demand, have stopped taking on new client memberships and have triaged priority to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during this period.
Winnunga Nimmityjah are now a testing site for COVID-19 and need to be sure that staff on the frontline have all the protective clothing/equipment required to do this.
ACT Health Directorate is working closely with Winnunga Nimmityjah to provide additional supports to ensure continuation of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans.
During this time Winnunga Nimmityjah doctors are able to provide telephone consultation for some clients at greater risk, this includes current Winnunga clients who are:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and 50 years or older
- Non-Indigenous and 70 years or older
- Being treated for chronic health condition or are immune compromised;
- pregnant; or
- a parent with a child under 12 months.
Please visit the Winnunga website for more information.
Flu Vaccinations have been dispersed to Winnunga Nimmityjah to distribute to community members.
Immunisations should be maintained for younger members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community.
Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation (Gugan Gulwan)
Gugan Gulwan provides case management, group and community programs and services to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and their families across the ACT region.
Due to social distancing requirements case management, community and group programs are being delivered in a limited face to face or online capacity.
Gugan Gulwan is a member of the Canberra Relief Network and continues to provided updated information and support to the local community through their programs and services, website, social media and community networks.
Please visit Gugan Gulwan website or Gugan Gulwan Facebook page for further information.
Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm (NBHF)
The NBHF Team are compiling and translating into culturally appropriate language, information on services and support available under the Health, Aged Care, Housing, Education, Justice, Cultural and Social-Emotional Wellbeing, Employment and Youth domains for distribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT/Queanbeyan and surrounding regions.
The NBHF has sourced a small number of hand hygiene kits and will distribute these to Winnunga Nimmityjah for provision to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders and other high risk patients.
Current and past NBHF clients are being contacted on a weekly basis by NBHF Community Liaison workers, either directly or via their nominated support person. The purpose of these outreach calls is to provide a general wellbeing check and to assist clients with making links to other services and online tools.
Development of a virtual NBHF Program in lieu of the standard NBHF Day Program is underway. The virtual program will cover a range of topics and online discussions such as:-
- Alcohol and Other Drugs Prevention Education;
- Supporting Connection to Culture;
- Promoting Healthy Attitudes, Values and Behaviours;
- Life Skills and Pre-Employment Development;
- Setting and Working Towards Personal Goals;
- Indigenous Horticultural, Agricultural and Environmental Knowledge Systems.
The NBHF is still accepting referrals with assessments carried out by phone or videoconferencing.
For all referral enquiries, please contact staff on (02) 6237 6700 or email at NBHF@act.gov.au.
Support for local Indigenous businesses
The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Business Support Program will be delivered by Yerra and is a program designed to provide support to Canberra-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic and help businesses access a range of resources or connect directly with other organisations and people who can help support the business and its employees.
Yerra is an Indigenous majority owned and managed Canberra business. Managing Director Dion Devow has been helping local Indigenous communities for more than 20 years.
Dion said he is excited to be working on an initiative to deliver a support program for the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business community.
“As part of the program, Yerra will be providing support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses in Canberra to help them navigate their way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the coming months we will be sharing education, resources, programs, training packages and other relevant information to help businesses survive and recover from COVID-19.
“Now, more than ever, we want to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are here to help businesses and their employees adapt and continue to thrive through the impacts of COVID-19. We can assist by referring and recommending programs and resources that are currently on offer.
“If you want to know how you can be part of this great initiative, or you are a business owner or employee and want to obtain some helpful resources, get in touch so I can help you.”
Dion Devow was named 2018 ACT Australian of the Year, 12 months after being named ACT NAIDOC Person of the Year. Dion is a proud champion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people achieving their business dreams.
If you are an ACT Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander business owner or employee, please get in touch with Dion at firstname.lastname@example.org.