Keeping Aboriginal clients ‘together while apart’ contributed to low COVID rates

Aunty Christine Charles

“My worker is like my message stick. She tells me how everyone is doing. She brings groceries and face masks and tells me how to stay healthy.”

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cohealth‘s Billabong program has been running for 20 years, with support from the City of Yarra.  The Billabong program provides weekly BBQ gatherings in Collingwood, Victoria for 50+ local Aboriginal people, integrated with free health appointments and connections to a variety of partner services.

While the Billabong gatherings had to stop during COVID-19 lockdown, cohealth kept Indigenous clients connected through weekly food drops, health check-ins and socially distanced one-on-one yarns. 

Not being able to gather physically is having a deep impact on the Aboriginal community. Programs like Billabong kept people spiritually connected even when they were apart, so they were less likely to want to leave their home. 

Through weekly, socially distanced visits from cohealth Aboriginal health workers, cohealth was able to get information to clients in the way they wanted it, which is often through talking. 

Aunty Christine Charles, one cohealth’s Billabong clients, said “My worker is like my message stick. She tells me how everyone is doing. She brings groceries and face masks and tells me how to stay healthy.” 

“Not everyone uses the internet, so it’s better to get information by word of mouth. I know Nellie is someone I can trust,” said Ms Charles. 

COVID infections among the Victorian Indigenous community have stayed relatively lowan outcome that has been attributed to the work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), and culturally safe health programs such as Billabong. 

This story was featured on the ABC: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-15/indigenous-communities-in-melbourne-spread-coronavirus-message/12662598 

 

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