Townsville Bulletin



TOWNSVILLE footy legend and Indigenous role model Gorden Tallis is urging the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to get vaccinated.

Townsville’s First Nations Covid-19 vaccinatio­n rate is almost half that of the city’s general population with 41.2 per cent receiving their first dose and 29.9 per cent fully vaccinated.

On Palm Island, 36.4 per have had their first dose and 29 per cent are double jabbed.

Hoping to turn these alarming figures around, Mr Tallis called for hesitant First Nations people to join him in rolling up their sleeves to get double jabbed before Covid arrives in the city after the border reopens on December 17.

“For me it was a really easy decision to get vaccinated. I want everything to go back to normal,” Mr Tallis said.

“It’s important for the North Queensland community, it’s important for Indigenous communitie­s and it’s very important for Australia that we all do this.

“Me getting the jab helps everybody and nothing comes out of my pocket. I can’t see any negatives in it whatsoever, it’s a win-win in my books.”

Australian government health data shows Brisbane hurtling towards the target of 80 per cent fully vaccinated by November 25, with 64 per cent fully vaccinated. Townsville has 57 per cent fully vaccinated and is on track to reach 80 per cent on December 29.

Even Charters Towers with the second worst vaccinatio­n rate in Queensland (40 per cent fully vaccinated), is expected to hit 80 per cent in March 2021 – ahead of Townsville’s Indigenous population.

Visiting Townsville on Wednesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had ministers spread across the length and breadth of Queensland, including remote communitie­s, encouragin­g people to get the jab as part of her government’s vax-a-thon campaign.

“We are urging communitie­s to get vaccinated. It is really important that we lift those (vaccinatio­n) levels,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We’re all in this together so it’s the councils, the state and the federal government, all working together to lift these rates.”

Townsville’s Indigenous vulnerabil­ity could be addressed by a local lockdown.

Local Aboriginal elder Uncle Rusty Butler, 73, blamed scaremonge­ring, the spread of misinforma­tion and mistrust in the government for the Indigenous population’s perilously slow Covid-19 vaccinatio­n rate.

He said mistrust for government and vaccinatio­ns could be traced back to “scarring” caused by “experiment­al” vaccinatio­ns given to people like his wife in rural communitie­s during the 1950s.

He blamed social media for spreading misinforma­tion, saying it needed to be corrected by medical experts on the ground.

“(People online are saying) don’t get vaccinated, they’re gonna kill you, don’t get vaccinated because they think you’re a guinea pig, you’re a test person for the government, all of that,” Uncle Rusty said.

Despite his reservatio­ns, Uncle Rusty got vaccinated due to his advanced age.

He advised his community’s patriarchs and matriarchs to talk to a medical profession­al before making a decision for their families on getting vaccinated before the virus arrives.

“Once they open that border, those unruly people from down south will turn up here with that Covid disease and they’ll spread that thing all over the shop,” Uncle Rusty said.

“That’s when the (hesitant) will start to think twice and go and get (the vaccine).”

He warned his children, who were in their 50s and refusing to get vaccinated, that they would be getting kicked out of home before they spread it to him.

Increasing vaccinatio­n rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitie­s requires a whole-of-community approach says Townsville Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Kieran Keyes.

He said access was critical in the vaccinatio­n rollout and they were constantly exploring opportunit­ies to provide access to the vaccine for First Nations people.

“It is important that we are responsive and agile in our approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vaccinatio­n. I am proud of the work that has been done to date to quickly stand up vaccinatio­n locations across Townsville,” Mr Keyes said.

“Starting conversati­ons with First Nations people about the COVID-19 vaccinatio­n is so important and I implore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to share their vaccinatio­n stories and speak with their communitie­s about their reasons for getting vaccinated.”

He said they were working closely with key stakeholde­rs including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical services, Department of Communitie­s, Red Cross, Department of Homelessne­ss and Housing, Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnershi­p and Townsville City Council.

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Gorden Tallis

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