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There is ongoing concern for a town in NSW’s west where about 10 per cent of the predominantly Indigenous population has now tested positive for Covid.
Wilcannia, which has a population of 549 according to the 2016 Census, recorded two new cases on Sunday, bringing total infections to 60.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports a population of about 745.
The town has been mentioned heavily in daily press conferences and NSW Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said on Saturday federal health authorities were "very concerned" about the outbreak.
"The Commonwealth has been very active in working with indigenous leaders and with the local Aboriginal community controlled health organisations to boost the vaccination programs, to boost testing capacity," he said.
Vaccine hesitancy has been an issue in Australia’s Indigenous communities due to access and anxiety about them.
Wilcannia community leader Brendon Adams told the ABC people “are confused” about vaccines and don’t know which ones to take.
Indigenous Australians are listed as a priority group for the jab.
Wilcannia community left 'to clean up the mess'
Mr Adams said residents have also been left “to clean up the mess” due to a delayed lockdown in Sydney and claims his community has been largely ignored.
"We're very angry, we're very frustrated, and [the] community is confused, because we never got the right education about what this pandemic can do to us,” he said.
The executive director of operations for the NSW Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council, Dr Peter Malouf, told The Guardian residents are “fearful”.
“They’re seeing the ADF and high volumes of people coming into their community, all wearing face masks, suited up – that traumatises the community,” he said.
Dr Malouf told The Today Show on Sunday "Aboriginal voices have never been heard through this current health response".
Town's food supplies running low
Locals have voiced concerns Wilcannia's food supplies are running low and its local health providers are ill-equipped to deal with the outbreak — a local health spokesperson told AAP the town had one ventilator.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was implored to send more resources to Wilcannia during a press conference on Sunday.
She responded she is confident with state and federal help given to the area. That includes the ADF and The Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“I appreciate many different people have different views on what we need to do, but all the briefings I have received tell me that while this situation is concerning, all the federal and state government agencies on the ground are working incredibly well together, especially our health services, our police services, but also family and community services and government agencies,” she said.
“And I really want to thank our Indigenous community leaders in particular for the role they have played in supporting our efforts to vaccinate as many people as we can, but also to make sure that people ask for medical attention when they need it as well.”
Time magazine highlighted the sluggish roll out in vaccines in Australia’s indigenous communities last week.
Bhiamie Williamson, a resident of Goodooga in northern NSW, told Time it is “almost impossible” for residents of the town of about 250 people to get vaccinated.
“That’s made people quite angry because, you know, Aboriginal people were one of the highest priority to get vaccinated in Australia and it has not eventuated that way,” he told the publication.
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