ABC RADIO DARWIN, 23 August 2021, Vaccine rates in remote NT communities

23 August 2021



SUBJECT/S: COVID vaccine rollout in remote NT communities; Refugees released from Darwin detention into Brisbane community.

ADAM STEER, CO-HOST: Malarndirri McCarthy is the Northern Territory's Labor Senator. Malarndirri, good morning. Welcome back to ABC Radio, Darwin. So, look, that information we've got is 29 per cent of those in remote communities are now fully vaccinated. What's your reaction to that? Is there still a lot of hesitancy in communities?

SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: We still have a lot of work to do, Adam, and it's important to keep encouraging all Australians, but in particular First Nations people to get vaccinated. There are clearly different messages still out there and some of them are not helpful. So we have to ensure that First Nations people have it in their languages, but also just to encourage the importance of getting vaccinated.

STEER: We've spoken about this before because the rollout has been successful in some jurisdictions. We talked about the success on the on the Tiwi Islands a few weeks ago.

MCCARTHY: Or Maningrida and Wadeye.

STEER: And so is it certain language groups that are more hesitant than others, or is it certain jurisdictions that are more hesitant than others?

MCCARTHY: I think we see it where the strength is of Aboriginal community controlled health. When you have those local organisations involved and the elders involved, you have a far greater chance of being able to vaccinate First Nations people because the confidence is there in their elders or the people that they respect in their community who are providing the messaging. And it really comes down to just grassroots communications.

STEER: So what communities is there still a lot of hesitancy?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think there's probably, hesitancy is probably broad. I don't think there's you know, I wouldn't be able to identify a particular community and say that's a hesitant community. Perhaps some of the health workers and the clinicians who work and live in them would perhaps give you a better indication on that. What I would say is that the rollout is continuing in remote communities, including Gunbalanya, Imanpa and Hart's Range in Central Australia. And we know that those will continue. And also this week along the Ngukurr area and hopefully Barunga Beswick with the Sunrise organisation there. So what we have to do is keep watching the messaging. Sometimes you might see on social media, Adam, people putting up messages that are just totally not correct. So those messages have to be quickly counteracted. So this has to be taken on a number of fronts, not just the actual physical vaccination, but the communication.

JO LAVERTY, CO-HOST: And Senator, what about today being the first day that kids 12 and over from areas outside of Greater Darwin are able to get the vaccine? How successful do you think that will be in communities?

MCCARTHY: Well, I just think that those places that have obviously led the way, like Maningrida, Wadeye, and I know that vaccination has taken place in where I come from in Borroloola as well, that people see this is important. And I think parents and families will be encouraging young ones to do that. And we have to, again, watch the messaging that is certainly out there on social media, and some of it, as I said earlier, is unhelpful. And we have to really confront that immediately.

LAVERTY: And we did just speak a moment ago to the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support Service. And you got a special shout out for the support that you've given to those detention, the detained refugees here in Darwin and the last refugee family were released yesterday. Do you reckon would you have preferred to see them stay here in Darwin, Senator?

MCCARTHY: Well, look, I was there on Saturday with them and Jo, and I just think that, you know, it is the work of the Darwin community and all those families in Darwin who just kept going to the gate every day at 5pm. That vigil was so critical on two fronts. One, to obviously enable the families to feel cared for and supported, but also to send a very strong message to authorities both in the Territory and beyond that this situation was just absolutely appalling.

LAVERTY: Do you think that message was received federally?

MCCARTHY: Yes, I think so. I think it was it was really important to see we were there Saturday, that the next morning Yaghob and Malakeh and their children, Abbas and Hajar, were then told that they would be removed to Brisbane. And they certainly were over the moon about that and just absolutely delighted. Naturally, we had offered here in the Territory. And I know the Chief Minister has said this as well, that there were families in Darwin who were prepared to assist them in the Darwin community. And I'm sure that offer would always be there, irrespective of which family are in detention so severely as they were.

LAVERTY: Good to speak with you on this. Thank you so much. That is Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy on ABC Radio, Darwin.