Indigenous-led advisory group established . . .
Many Indigenous leaders in Australia believe that a COVID-19 outbreak in their communities, especially remote communities, could wreak havoc as they are already dealing with complex health issues and overcrowded housing. Indigenous leaders, federal and state health officials, and Indigenous medical associations worked together to establish the National Indigenous Advisory Group in early March to fast-track COVID-19-related emergencies. A number of communities have been restricting movement into their communities or banning visitors, including government and non-government agencies. Warnings are also being translated into over a dozen Aboriginal languages. So far, none of the some 4,245 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia have been among Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities; however, the 14 non-Indigenous cases in central Australia have heightened fears of an outbreak in Aboriginal communities.
Lessons from 2009 H1N1 . . .
Indigenous communities and Australian federal and state governments are taking note of lessons learned from the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak. As in Canada, Indigenous communities in Australia were hit hard – they made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalizations and 13 per cent of deaths. According to Kristy Crooks, an Aboriginal health researcher, the exclusion of Indigenous decision-makers in the 2009 outbreak in Australia was a major government failure.
Need to build on Canada-Asia Pacific Indigenous connections . . .
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, with a total population of about 798,000, make up 3.3 per cent of Australia’s population, similar to the 4.9 per cent of Canada’s population that is Aboriginal. Also similar to Canada, Indigenous Australia is not one group of people but rather comprises hundreds of groups with unique languages, histories, and cultures. Indigenous people around the world face similar complex health, economic, and political issues that are heightened during times like these. Indigenous organizations and state governments in both countries have begun to take steps to minimize the negative impact of the spread of COVID-19, and increased collaboration on the issue between the two countries, and with other Asia Pacific countries with Indigenous populations, such as Taiwan, Japan, and throughout Southeast Asia, could help save lives.