cohealth’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health team have adapted programs and services to ensure our communities get the support they need during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 restrictions have had significant impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – physically, mentally and culturally. Social distancing requirements have meant limited access to essential health services and engagement in culturally vital practices, like gathering for a yarn.
Long-standing, weekly cohealth programs like Foodshare and Billabong BBQ (which is put on for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get together and connect with the mob) were forced to stop.
Rhonda DiBlasi, cohealth’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program Facilitator and the team swiftly adapted the programs in response to the pandemic. This has enabled one-on-one socially distanced yarns, pre-made food drops and regular phone check-ups with clients.
The new approach of one-on-one interaction has also allowed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health team to identify previously unknown needs and issues for clients, including domestic violence support, drug and alcohol support, mental and physical health needs, and the impact of social and cultural events like Reconciliation Week and Black Lives Matter protests.
Rhonda is incredibly proud of the commitment, flexibility and teamwork displayed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health team who have gone above and beyond to ensure the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is kept informed and connected, despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic.
“We’ve had a few calls from elders in the community being really appreciative and looking forward to their food drop and yarn on a Thursday. Knowing they are having their needs met and can have a yarn has been very helpful, and as much as community are isolated, they are no longer feeling isolated.” Rhonda said.
While the pandemic has forced temporary changes onto the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, they are looking forward to a return to activities like gathering, connecting, yarning, and celebrating post-COVID19.
And with lessons learned through the pandemic, cohealth is well positioned to maintain some newly implemented practices that have proven beneficial, like increased food drops, so that individuals unable to attend Foodshare and Billabong BBQ can still have a yarn and receive the food, community connections and support necessary.