The successful work of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and its 32 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) has been instrumental in suppressing COVID-19 with zero active cases in Victorian communities.
While there is cause for celebration at this milestone achievement, VACCHO has urged a level of caution among Aboriginal Victorians as restrictions start to ease.
VACCHO, its 32 Members, and the State Government have worked together in creative and responsive ways over the past six months 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 74 people now fully recovered and zero cases still active.
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO welcomed this significant achievement.
“We wish everyone with COVID-19 a safe and speedy recovery,” she said.
“The world has faced an unprecedented global health pandemic and to not record any major cluster, outbreak or loss of life in our Victorian Communities to date is testament to the hard work and efforts of these amazing 32 ACCOs across the state.
“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.
“Aware of the increased risk of COVID-19 to Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islanders at the start of this pandemic, our ACCOs acted quickly to help lead the fight against the deadly coronavirus.
“Our 32 ACCOs moved quickly to source personal protective equipment, provide timely and culturally safe information, and critically begin culturally safe COVID-19 testing.”
Ms Gallagher said the ACCO’s holistic, quick and effective response to the dangers posed by COVID-19 should serve as a reminder to state and territory governments to trust Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands, especially as they start to map out the 10-year national Closing the Gap agreement, and its implementation in Victoria.
“The success of the ACCO response clearly demonstrates the value of having cultural knowledge available and those important social connections at a grass roots level,” Ms Gallagher said.
“However, the danger is not yet over, and we urge our Victorian Communities to continue to abide by restrictions as we move towards a new COVID-19 normal.”
Meanwhile, Ms Gallagher acknowledged the contribution of former Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, who resigned from the Victorian Parliament over the weekend.
“On behalf of my organisation, and the Aboriginal Community broadly, I wish to sincerely thank Ms Mikakos and her department for the commitment and agility they have shown in recent times,” she said.
“I believe our ability to come together in a meaningful partnership since early March has allowed us to work together to keep Aboriginal communities safe and supported during the COVID-19 response.
“On a deeply personal note, I would also like to acknowledge and thank Ms Mikakos for her ongoing contributions and leadership in supporting Aboriginal self-determination, recognising her ongoing efforts over the years at the Aboriginal Children’s Forum, and supporting Treaty and the Stolen Generations Redress Scheme amongst many other things.”
Ms Gallagher said she was looking forward to working with newly appointed Health Minister Martin Foley, who continues to work closely with VACCHO to progress mental health reform.
“Martin is a strong and capable Minister and has been a good friend of VACCHO in the past,” she said.
“We look forward to working with him in the future and we wish him every success in his new role.”
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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.