Community rallies to protect Indigenous Australians from coronavirus

Everyday Australians and businesses are digging deep in their hearts and pockets to help keep our most vulnerable populations safe from COVID-19.

Aboriginal-lead charity organisation Children’s Ground is leading a fundraising campaign to provide disadvantaged indigenous families with resources that will enable them to protect themselves from the virus.

The campaign’s Go Fund Me page has raised over $68,152 since it was created in mid-March, thanks to the generosity of individuals and businesses.

Project manager Chloe Abbott says the funds will be used to purchase essentials like cleaning products, tissues and toilet paper.

“Children’s Ground … will then act as a hub and distribute them [essentials] throughout the community, which means they don’t have to go into town, or put themselves at risk to try and access those resources which are so scarce at the minute,” she says.

Businesses have also made significant contributions by donating essential supplies. Bellamys, Pental and Boating Camping Fishing have already made donations of baby food, bleach and camping gear.

Director for the Centre for Improving Health Services for Aboriginal Children and Families at Edith Cowan University Dr Daniel McAullay says remote indigenous communities are more vulnerable to coronavirus due to their higher rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Additionally, Dr McAullay says many Aboriginal communities experience socioeconomic disadvantages such as overcrowding, homelessness, poorer housing and lack of access to good nutrition and clean water. Such living conditions and health issues mean that COVID-19 poses a greater threat to these groups.

“If you have poorer access to healthcare, you’re more likely to have complications from that,” Dr McAullay says.

“Overcrowding’s a big issue as well. It’s hard to physically distance when you’re living in a household with 10 other people.”

Overcrowding is a primary concern for Children’s Ground. Ms Abbott explains that if COVID-19 enters a community, it will be almost impossible to contain.

“Prevention is key because overcrowding in the communities is immense. Nobody has the resources to isolate. We don’t have the resources to just follow those very basic principles that a lot of people are following like limiting their trips to town and that sort of thing,” Dr McAullay says.

Children’s Ground aims to use some of the raised funds to establish ‘elders-protected areas’, although they are waiting on government approval.

“Some elders don’t even have their own bedrooms to be able to isolate so that is a huge priority. Trying to establish either accommodation in terms of a hotel or another option is going to be through that donated camping equipment,” Ms Abbott says.

The Australian Government is allocating $123m to supporting Indigenous business and communities in response to COVID-19 over the next two financial years.
Dr McAullay says for the most-part, the government has responded well to the crisis.

There is an acknowledgement that Aboriginal people are at greater risk and require a more specific response involving and being led by Aboriginal people themselves.”
Ms Abbott says funding is still needed to ensure at-risk groups keep receiving the needed resources.

“We haven’t even covered it for the next month or two months but when we do, we don’t really know how long this is going to go on for. So at the minute, we could be looking at six months of resources that we need to be securing.”

Those willing to help can donate through the Go Fund Me page, and share the campaign on social media. Children’s Ground is also welcoming donations of essential supplies by businesses, who can contact them via their website.