'Crying out for help': Backlash after first Indigenous Covid death

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The NSW Government is under pressure to protect Indigenous communities from Covid-19, amid fears of an impending Delta disaster in Western NSW.

It comes after a man from Dubbo became the first Aboriginal person to die from the virus since the pandemic began.

Tributes are flowing for the father in his 50s, whose family has requested he not be identified or pictured at this time.

Letter warns of Covid catastrophe

A day after his death, a harrowing letter from 18 months ago emerged, which warned about the threat of a Covid-19 catastrophe in remote communities and pleaded for urgent action.

In the leaked correspondence obtained by the ABC, the Broken Hill-based Maari Ma Aboriginal Health Corporation wrote to Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt in March 2020 to raise grave concerns about how unprepared western NSW was for an outbreak of Covid-19.

It’s also been revealed a second letter was sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week and Ms Berejiklian was cc’d.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian addresses media during apress conference in Sydney, Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Source: AAP
The NSW Government is facing backlash over the spread of Covid-19 into Indigenous communities. Source: AAP

When asked what the NSW Government was doing in response, Ms Berejiklian swiftly passed the buck to Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

“They sent another letter to Scott Morrison last week and said they cc'ed you into that letter and they're crying out for help,” a reporter from NITV said.

"Communities there are so impoverished that quarantining facilities are desperately required and assistance to help people to quarantine at home. That's one of the areas that's got the highest infection rates at the moment."

Mr Hazzard admitted finding alternative accommodation had been "challenging" but said plans are underway to set up temporary facilities.

“So as late as yesterday, I was communicating with the Planning Minister to try and get approvals to have additional accommodation available on a portable basis up in Wilcannia to allow separation of people who are positive," he said. 

“It's very challenging and it certainly would have been preferable if the Indigenous community, the Aboriginal people across NSW had been vaccinated earlier, no question.”

Sluggish Indigenous vaccination rollout slammed 

Earlier in the press conference, Ms Berejiklian had also been quizzed about the slow rate of vaccinations among Indigenous communities.

“Are you comfortable opening up at 70 and 80 per cent if vaccination rates in vulnerable communities like Aboriginal communities are not near 70?” the reporter asked.

The Premier said she has requested extra doses for Far Western NSW while also having a dig at the Federal rollout.

Just 6.3 per cent of Indigenous people in Western NSW are fully vaccinated compared to 26 per cent of the broader population.

NSW Health yesterday confirmed the first Aboriginal man to die with Covid was not vaccinated and had underlying health problems.

Labor calls it a ‘national crisis’

Federal Labor's spokesperson for Indigenous affairs, Linda Burney, fears the death in Dubbo could be the first of many, calling it a “national crisis”.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

“I'm not trying to be alarmist. I'm trying to be realistic," she said.

"There is no real isolation places out there. There is still an unknown capacity of hospitals to be able to cope. There is still no clear evacuation plans. There are still no clear evacuation plan. The situation out there is a national crisis," she said. 

The number of infections in western NSW continues to grow with 58 new local cases.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney at a press conference in Sydney. Source: AAP
Federal Labor's spokesperson for Indigenous affairs, Linda Burney, has decribed the situation in Indigeneous communities as a "national crisis". Source: AAP

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting