Where is the Minister for Indigenous Australians? Urgent action needed to protect remote communities

March 19, 2020

Labor supports urgent action required to protect Indigenous Australians living in remote communities.
 
Indigenous Australians are disproportionately at risk of serious infection from COVID-19.
 
This is due to high rates of chronic illnesses in our community.
 
Indigenous Australians also have a lower capacity to isolate as a result of the prevalence of overcrowding.
 
And many remote communities do not have proper and adequate access to clean water. 
 
If the virus takes hold in remote communities, it poses a threat not only to families and individuals – but to the language, culture and knowledge of which elders are custodians.
 
We acknowledge the initial steps taken by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments in recognising and protecting against the heightened risk posed by COVID-19 to Indigenous Australians.
 
We also acknowledge and appreciate the departmental briefings Labor has received in relation to this matter.
 
A nationally consistent approach to the protection of remote communities from COVID-19 is urgent.
 
The Government must undertake the following initial steps:

  • Restrict non-essential travel and entry to remote Indigenous communities;
  • Assess and ensure food security in remote communities in conjunction with prospective travel and entry restrictions as well as available transport;
  • Ensure safe access to goods and essentials by providing protection from scammers as well as proper financial planning in the context of the stimulus;
  • Suspend Community Development Program mutual obligation requirements – people should not be put in harm’s way or risk spreading the virus to vulnerable people because they are afraid their payments will be cut off;
  • Ensure clear information about health and logistical issues are disseminated to and accessible by Indigenous Australians in a culturally appropriate manner; and
  • Immediately deliver adequate personal protection equipment to health services in remote communities.

 
Labor also recognises and supports the work undertaken and recommendations proposed by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in ensuring the health and safety of Indigenous Australians as our nation responds to COVID-19, including the role of the Australian Defence Force working in partnership with First Nations communities.
 
We note that Indigenous Australians also face a disproportionately higher risk of serious infection from COVID-19 in rural, regional and urban areas.
 
Remote communities are not just home to thousands of First Nations Australians, they are the guardians of thousands of years of culture and history. They need protection, and they need it urgently.
 
THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2020

MEDIA RELEASE

HON LINDA BURNEY MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS
MEMBER FOR BARTON
 
SENATOR PATRICK DODSON
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR RECONCILIATION
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS
SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA
 
HON WARREN SNOWDON
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS
MEMBER FOR LINGIARI
 
SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY
SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY