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Community must be involved in protecting Elders from COVID-19

07 Sep 2021

Strong involvement of the local Aboriginal community is needed to protect Elders from COVID-19, according to Indigenous leader Ken Markwell.

Mr Markwell, a Mununjhali man and Executive General Manager of Indigenous Services at Australian Unity, said services for Aboriginal people are most effective when the community is involved in the planning, co-development and implementation stages.

"The current threat from COVID-19 to our communities is a shared experience," Mr Markwell said.

"We are all going through this together and I know everyone is doing the best they can in difficult circumstances.

"COVID-19 has made the ability to provide safe and culturally appropriate care to our people even more challenging particularly to those in remote and very remote communities.

"Helping each other, working together, and doing whatever we can to support our Elders and our vulnerable mob must be our priority."

Mr Markwell described the response so far from local communities and health service and care providers as 'remarkable'.

"I know that our company Australian Unity has been quick to respond, especially to the emerging COVID-19 crisis in our Western NSW region," Mr Markwell said.

"We are playing an active role in Wilcannia and the surrounding regions to ensure our most vulnerable Elders and employees are safe and informed.

"Our Wilcannia customers and community members are being offered free transport to pop-up testing and vaccination clinics to help control the spread of COVID-19 amongst the community.

"We have provided 5000 face masks for community use, access to our new office facilities for local organisations and are working with NSW government and local organisations to support meals for community.

"We also know how important connection is to our mob, which is why we reach out regularly to check-in with our customers and employees on their wellbeing."

Mr Markwell said that Australian Unity was engaging with Elders, government, community members and other local service providers to help facilitate the timely provision of COVID-19 vaccinations and culturally appropriate and COVID safe care.

"I am proud of how our team have and continue to respond especially our frontline workers and those who support them. They are my heroes!"

Australian Unity's Indigenous Services and Aboriginal Home Care business employs more than 300 people—most of whom identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander—making it one of the largest employers of Aboriginal people in NSW.

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