Australian Aboriginal Health Body Criticizes State Government over Lack of Consultation

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
November 11, 2021 Updated: November 12, 2021

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory had released a statement saying the organisation was not adequately consulted before Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced new restrictions for remote communities.

In the media release on Nov.10, AMSANT Chief Executive John Paterson said that “with regard to the requirement for rapid antigen testing and mask wearing in remote communities below 70% first vaccination levels for people 16 years and over, AMSANT was not included in discussions about the justification for this specific new measure.”

The new restrictions announced by Gunner are to take effect from Nov. 15.

In addition, anyone entering these communities from Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, or outside the Territory will have to wear a mask in public areas for seven days, and from Nov. 19, they will also need to test negative to COVID-19 via rapid antigen testing within 72 hours of entering a community.

Paterson also expressed concern that using an overly punitive approach may undermine efforts to speed up vaccination in these remote communities, and said it is “critical that the government engages meaningfully on why and how this measure should be implemented.”

He suggested alternative approaches such as vaccine passports, which would “avoid punitive and potentially criminalising consequences.”

“We strongly advocate for the immediate introduction of vaccine passports to increase community protection and to act as a powerful incentive for those who are hesitant or lax in getting vaccinated,” he said.

However, Paterson stated that the most critical change needed by the NT government is the way they are calculating data, NT News reported.

He said they need to refer to the National Immunisation Register, which shows that only 67.7 percent of NT residents are fully vaccinated, considerably lower than the government’s claim of 76 percent.

“You will hear him (Gunner) saying this and that about the number of jabs in arms given in the Territory, but that’s not an accurate measure because it doesn’t account for all those that got vaccinated here as tourists,” Paterson said.

The Epoch Times reached out to Chief Minister Gunner’s office for comment on this issue, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, the woman who sparked the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Territory has apologised for lying.

According to NT News, the 21-year-old Cairns woman said she was “deeply remorseful” after admitting she had not told border officials of her four-day visit to Victoria, a COVID-19 hotspot.

This led to the current outbreak, which now stands at 6, as well as the subsequent lockdowns and lockouts in Katherine and Greater Darwin.

Meanwhile, AMSANT has also commented on the importance of the NT government consulting with them before implementing new health measures.

In an email on Thursday, Dr David Cooper, Manager of Research and Advocacy Policy at AMSANT, said that AMSANT’s services provide around two-thirds of the primary health care services to Aboriginal people in the Territory, including many remote communities. This includes services and measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He went on to say that “the experience of our services and their close relationships with communities and clients is critical to the design and implementation of culturally appropriate services and measures for remote communities.”

He also stressed that the NT Government has signed the Closing the Gap Agreement, committing them to engagement and shared decision-making with Aboriginal people and leaders in relation to programs and services affecting Aboriginal communities.

“This clearly has not occurred,” he said.

Steve Milne