VACCHO, our Members, and the State Government work together in creative and responsive ways to protect the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Victorians

Posted by VACCHO Communications Team on 14 September 2020

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In the face of a global pandemic, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), its 32 Members, and the State Government have worked together in creative and responsive ways to protect the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Victorians.

The latest data shows we have seen a total of 74 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our communities with 69 people recovered and 5 cases still active. 

Last week, VACCHO met with Health Minister Jenny Mikakos to share the success of Aboriginal people and leaders in managing and mitigating COVID-19 in their local Communities.

We believe the low incidence of COVID-19 in Victorian Aboriginal communities is testament to Aboriginal community control, and what can happen when all parties work meaningfully together.

During this health crisis, 24 of VACCHO’s 32 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) rapidly sprang into action to keep families safe and our cultures strong by offering much needed culturally safe COVID-19 testing supports.

These ranged from driving Communities and Elders to appointments, setting up COVID-19 pop-up testing clinics, and operating a respiratory clinic in metropolitan Melbourne. Many ACCOs also demonstrated their flexibility by quickly moving to online or telehealth arrangements.

More than 8000 ACCO-run telehealth sessions have taken place since March.

Other notable achievements include:

  • BUDJA BUDJA ABORIGINAL COOPERATIVE provided COVID-19 testing in people’s homes as many people struggled to access clinics during isolation.
  • Countless ACCOs, including WATHAURONG ABORIGINAL CO-OPERATIVE and VICTORIAN ABORIGINAL HEALTH SERVICE set up local partnerships with nearby foodbanks and cafes to ensure people had the resources they needed.
  • Many ACCOs delivered written information to Community members’ homes who did not have the internet while KIRRAE HEALTH SERVICE delivered iPads to people.
  • GUNDITJMARA ABORIGINAL COOPERATIVE developed an online mindfulness program for staff and Communities.
  • VACCHO continues to chair a regular Aboriginal Health Sector Forum with both the State and Federal Governments with 15 meetings held since March. The Forum has been a critical meeting point for VACCHO Members and decision makers to mobilise and respond to COVID-19.

Providing culturally safe public health messaging to Aboriginal communities was another vital tool to ensuring our Communities stayed one step ahead of the COVID-19 curve.

Since mid-March VACCHO has produced:

  • COVID-19 Information Hub website for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander communities -
  • 22 wellbeing videos.
  • 14 state-wide Health Sector Forum communiques.
  • 31 information and support webpages.
  • 48 social media tiles and GIFS with accompanying information posts.
  • Promotional assets and marketing for online Victorian NAIDOC 2020concert (more than 10,000 views).
  • 12 media releases.
  • Shared weekly, VACCHO, Member ACCO and Victorian peak ACCOs’ social media posts.
  • Translation and dissemination of Government data, restriction amendments, and state of emergency changes into culturally appropriate and safe copy.
  • Supported information fliers for Melbourne tower residents in hard lockdown.
  • Promotional materials to create access to harm minimisation PPE for Black Lives Matter Rally attendees.

Resulting from this work, VACCHO has seen its Facebook audience grow by 40 per cent with as many as 260,000 views in a single day. Facebook engagement also increased by a massive 300 per cent as VACCHO was viewed as a trusted source of news for and by Aboriginal people.

VACCHO and its Member stories of innovation have featured in more than 50 media opportunities across television, radio, print, and online mediums since the start of the pandemic.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO praised the response of Aboriginal communities to COVID-19, and while we are not out of the woods yet, she said VACCHO would continue to respond and lobby on priorities raised by its Members.

“These include further spikes in COVID-19, sector fatigue and employee wellbeing, Aboriginal communities pre-existing health concerns, and pressing mental health and wellbeing issues such as suicide and family violence,” Ms Gallagher said.

“As we continue to move through this COVID-19 crisis, we are now turning our minds to economic, cultural and community recovery and must make the most of any opportunities presented.”

Looking ahead, Ms Gallagher said VACCHO was looking forward to releasing Balit Durn Durn, VACCHO’s comprehensive response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System Interim Report. 

She said the organisation would continue to lobby both the State and Federal Governments for meaningful change in the national Closing the Gap Agreement.

Meanwhile, VACCHO will continue to offer valuable input on the National Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care, Aboriginal Executive Council, the Expert Reference Group on Public Drunkenness, and the Victorian Aboriginal Koori Health Advisory Council.


For media inquiries or interview requests please contact Andrew Jefferson on 0428 433 963.

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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.