In sad news, a 50-year-old Aboriginal man from Dubbo in Western NSW has become the first Indigenous person in the country to die from COVID-19.
It was confirmed on Monday, the local man was Aboriginal, unvaccinated, and had underlying health conditions before he succumbed to the virus in Dubbo hospital on Sunday night.
And as case numbers continue to soar in western and far western NSW, there are mounting fears the man’s death could be the first of many in First Nations communities.
The shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney called the worsening situation in NSW a national crisis and condemned the Federal governments lack of action.
“The death of Mr. Dunn just 50 years old, in Dubbo Base Hospital, I am terribly afraid will be the first death of many. I’m not trying to be alarmist. I’m trying to be realistic. There are no real isolation places out there,” minister Burney said.
“There is still an unknown capacity of hospitals to be able to cope. There are still no clear evacuation plans. The situation out there is a national crisis.”
Just 6.3 per cent of Aboriginal people in western NSW have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, compared to 26 per cent of the general population.
The Wiradjuri woman told reporters yesterday, “the spread into these vulnerable communities could have been avoided, had there been proper planning and foresight by the federal government.”
“Aboriginal people were deemed to be vulnerable groups in the vaccine roll out and clearly that has failed,” she said.
“The woeful percentages of Aboriginal people vaccinated in some parts of New South Wales, as well as the country… I am laying it squarely at the feet of the federal government.”
“They knew this was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his government’s efforts to safeguard Indigenous communities from the virus, pointing to the deployment of ADF personnel and emergency AUSMAT teams to help boost vaccination rates in the region.
“In many remote communities, because they feel like they’re a long way away from the cities where these things are happening, they can sometimes form a view they are protected,” Mr Morrison told 5AA radio.
“That’s not the case. The Delta variant can travel as we know it does.”
The PM said immunisation coverage was starting to rise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
But Minister Burney said the federal government was warned over 12 months ago, that this was going to be the outcome, if they did not step in.
“There is too little too late in Western New South Wales. We know that the federal government was warned back in March 2020,” she said.
“The warnings about vulnerable communities like Wilcannia, like Brewarrina, like Walgett, like Bourke, has been well known for many, many months. The death of Mr. Dunn, and those that will follow could have been avoided and should have been avoided.”
“This is a national disgrace.”