The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has strongly urged Aboriginal people to stay home where they can, to get tested, and to self-isolate at home while waiting for test results after two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were detected in Aboriginal Communities in Ballarat.
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO recognised that seeing triple digit spikes of COVID-19 was an anxiety provoking and uncertain time for many Aboriginal Communities in metropolitan Melbourne and now regional Victoria, but said support was available for those that need it.
“While news of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ballarat is really concerning, it is an important reminder to remain vigilant in looking after ourselves and our families to stop the slow of the spread of this virus, especially now since it’s entered regional Victoria,” Ms Gallagher said.
“We know communities have been working hard to minimise any infections which has been quite successful to date, but we are entering a very challenging period. We are seeing alarming rates of community transmission - unlike the first lockdown period.
“To protect our loved ones and our Elder Aboriginal Communities, people must continue to stay home where they can, wear masks, practice good hygiene, practice physical distancing, and follow the limits for public gatherings.”
While face coverings are now mandatory for people living in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when leaving their home, Ms Gallagher said that face covering should also be considered in rural areas, especially in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.
“We can’t force anyone to wear a mask outside of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, but as the peak Aboriginal health and wellbeing organisation we strongly encourage our communities in rural Victoria to wear a face covering if they own one. Particularly when you cannot apply physical distancing. Face coverings have been shown to reduce the risk of transmission and should be considered earlier rather than later for our mob,” Ms Gallagher said.
If people have symptoms of COVID-19, Ms Gallagher said it was important that they remain home and get tested no matter how mild.
“Symptoms could include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste,” Ms Gallagher said.
“Go home straight after your test and self-isolate while you wait for the results. This usually takes 1-3 days. No heading to the shops or fishing with your mates until you have your results.
“If you are a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must isolate at home for 14 days to stop the virus spreading to other people. That’s really important.”
During this uncertain time, Ms Gallagher said staying connected with family, friends and your community was important.
“Some ways you can do this are calling people for a yarn on the phone, talking about the community and checking if they are OK, talking about the virus and how to stop the spread, connecting with family and friends on social media and sharing your tips on social media #KeepOurMobSafe,” she said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at greater risk of coronavirus if they:
A one-off payment of $1,500 is available to workers who are unable to work during their isolation, have no income during this period, and are not entitled to any paid sick leave, special pandemic leave or other income support.
The Victorian Government will now extend the scheme to ensure that as soon as a person is tested, they will be eligible for a $300 support payment from the Victorian Government – as long as they meet the eligibility of the existing scheme.
People should call 1800 675 398 (option 8) to register for support.
There are three main sites in Ballarat where people can get tested:
To see where to get tested in your local area click here.
Here’s what we know so far on the 37 Aboriginal cases in Victoria.
For media inquiries or interview requests please contact Andrew Jefferson on 0400 694 593.
VACCHO is the leading advocate for the health of Aboriginal peoples in Victoria and a peak organisation to its membership of 32 ACCOs. VACCHO also works closely with partner organisations, Government, non-Government community sector organisations across Victoria and nationally.