The COVID-19 conundrum in remote Indigenous Australia: Schools

The COVID-19 conundrum in remote Indigenous Australia: Schools Electronic Book Section

CAEPR Topical Issue: Indigenous Australians and the COVID-19 crisis: perspectives on public policy

  • Author(s): Fogarty, Bill
  • Secondary Author(s): Markham, F, Smith, D, Morphy, F
  • Published: 2020
  • Publisher: Australian National University, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR)
  • Volume: 1/2020

Abstract: There is a palpable fear that COVID-19 will devastate Aboriginal populations in remote communities in Northern Australia. For example, there are over 45,500 Aboriginal people in the ‘Outback’ of the Northern Territory alone, and a quarter of these are children under 14 years of age (ABS, 2020). This population is highly vulnerable as a result of systemic and long-term neglect. Sadly, overcrowding, high rates of chronic disease, comorbidity, poor water security, high rates of unemployment, substance abuse and mental health issues are well established realities of the socioeconomic condition in remote communities. Add to this low levels of English literacy, mass returns to country from cities like Darwin–heightening community stressors and increasing overcrowding–a highly mobile population and communal cultural mores (social distancing will not work in these places – full stop) and you do not have to be an epidemiologist to be concerned about the impact COVID-19 might have. These communities are not cut off from the world or safe havens from the virus. As I write this, hundreds of fly-in fly-out workers are landing in communities with mining operations and the Kimberley in Western Auatralia has ust had two confirmed cases. So, while the Minster for Indigenous affairs, the Hon. Ken Wyatt,and the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt, are taking advice from an appointed Indigenous leadership about community lock-downs, there is a risk that the horse, as they say, may have already bolted (Hunt & Wyatt, 2020).

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Suggested Citation
Fogarty, Bill, 2020, The COVID-19 conundrum in remote Indigenous Australia: Schools, Volume:1/2020, Electronic Book Section, viewed 02 July 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=20675.

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