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COVID-19 funding boost for indigenous communities

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Indigenous communities will receive a $21 million health funding boost for COVID-19 as authorities consider easing the travel restrictions that have so far prevented outbreaks in remote and vulnerable communities.

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Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said the funding would help combat the spread of COVID-19 amongst First Nations Queenslanders.

“From the moment the virus appeared in Australia we have been working to prevent outbreaks in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities where we know it would have a devastating impact,” Miles said.

“We know that First Nations peoples, particular those that are aged 50 and over with one or more chronic health conditions may experience more severe symptoms of COVID-19. We have to remain vigilant and be able to respond early to COVID-19.”

The communities have effectively been in lockdown since March, backed by a decision of National Cabinet, and Miles said discussions this week would determine whether those and other restrictions could be eased.

“It’s possible that we might have updated information on the restrictions as they relate to Indigenous communities,” Miles told reporters ahead of decisions being made on Sunday.

“The decision to lock them down was taken after deep consultation with them and their community leaders and of course we’ll continue to talk with them and listen to them as we make those decisions.”

The new funding will improve links between communities and regional health services, bolster the frontline workforce, enable healthcare to be delivered at home and provide a surge capacity in the event of an outbreak. Targeted SMS messaging will also be developed.

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford commended community leaders for the work they have done to protect their communities from the spread of COVID-19.

“I have heard the concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mayors and leaders since the measures came into effect,” Crawford said.

“We know these decisions have raised challenges for the delivery of healthcare and essential wellbeing services.”

Miles said the government would also expand the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) existing IUIH Connect Program in southeast Queensland.

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