“Keep our mob safe”: Aboriginal communities of western Sydney stepping up to get their COVID-19 vaccinations

Aboriginal community members and staff at at Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation in Mount Druitt rolled up their sleeves to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

Aboriginal community members of western Sydney are stepping up to the plate with more than 28 people receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination last week.

Community members were able to raise their concerns and ask questions about COVID-19 vaccination at the educational “yarn up” with Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) population health director Professor Stephen Corbett.

The yarn up took place at Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation in Mount Druitt with the aim of educating and encouraging the community to make informed decisions about getting the jab.

The education Yarn Up event was hosted by WSLHD’s Population Health team.

WSLHD Aboriginal health worker and community member Vickie Mason was the first to put her hand up and receive her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

She said there were honest conversations and opinions regarding COVID-19 vaccination amongst the Aboriginal community leading up to the event.

“Many community members were questioning the vaccine’s effectiveness and feared they would have side effects after receiving it,” Vickie said.

WSLHD nurses were available on the day to administer vaccination for those who wished to receive it. 

“The information about COVID-19 and the vaccination was very clear and presented with facts that were easy to understand,” Vickie said.

“Many individuals admitted they were attending the workshop just to listen, with no intention of receiving the vaccination.

“However, 8 individuals including 3 staff members changed their mind, and were confident in what they had learned, making the decision to receive the vaccination that day.”

As an Aboriginal health worker in western Sydney, Vickie said it was vital to reach this vulnerable population in order to keep them and the wider mob safe.

“A lot of members of the Aboriginal community are scared of hospitals and health clinics as they see them as a place where you go in and don’t come out.

“Having the vaccination come to a safe place like Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation has been very beneficial for them. This whole process is about trust,” she said.

“We are a very close knit community. It is important for us to get the jab to keep our mob safe.”

Dr Stephen Corbett spoke to the Aboriginal community to inform and educate them on the COVID-19 virus and vaccination.

Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation services manager Melinda Bonham said that she decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the yarn up.

“I did not plan to get vaccinated today but I changed my mind,” Melinda said.

“It’s not only about me anymore. I owe it to my family and my community. ”

Aboriginal Community members at Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation

Western Sydney is home to one of the largest Aboriginal populations in New South Wales.

Aboriginal communities are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. It is due to the higher rates of chronic health conditions and other lifestyle factors.  

With COVID cases now increasing, Marrin Weejali clients admit they didn’t realise the negative impact COVID-19 fear had taken on their mental health.

Due to the positive feedback from the COVID-19 vaccination yarn up at Marrin Weejali, the team at WSLHD Population Health will work closely with other Aboriginal Corporations across the district to schedule more yarn up events.

A reminder that the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect against the flu, so you should still have your annual flu shot.

It is recommended that people wait at least 7 days between a dose of seasonal flu vaccine and a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

There’s no evidence that the 2 vaccinations interact with each other, this is a precautionary recommendation that allows for proper safety and monitoring for both vaccines.

If you are looking for information on the COVID-19 vaccination, you can check out the WSLHD COVID-19 Community Resources Page, or get in contact with an Aboriginal Health Workers on 02 9840 3603.