Empowering Aboriginal Health Workers key in battle against COVID-19

11 May 2020

Protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from COVID-19 requires more than just an understanding of the virus itself. Empowering Aboriginal Health Workers and Practitioners, who have existing community and cultural knowledge, is key to controlling and managing COVID-19 outbreaks in remote Indigenous communities. 

Alyson Wright and a team from RSPH have developed a series of culturally appropriate training in infection control, contract tracing, interview techniques, and the use of personal protective equipment, which are available online. 

“We can’t eliminate COVID-19 without a vaccination, but we can reduce the impact of disease by ensuring we have a skilled workforce who can respond quickly to outbreaks and areas of community transmission,” says Wright.  

The team have focused on delivering training through online modules due the travel restrictions and border closures associated with COVID-19.  

The training modules can be completed for free online at the Australian Government’s Infectious Control Training Platform, and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW COVID-19 training website. Hard copies can also be sent to communities on request.  

“The Aboriginal Health Workforce have important cultural knowledge and key relationships in their communities, so they are critical to helping with public health responses such as contact tracing, public health messaging in community, and supporting quarantine and isolation measures,” says Wright.  

While the training is focused on COVID-19, the skills developed in this training will help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers respond and prevent other outbreaks in future. 

*** The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program and MAE team in Research School of Population Health were responsible for the development of these modules and includes epidemiologists, clinicians and public health researchers. Many of the staff are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander epidemiologists or have had experience working in Indigenous Health or in public health in developing countries and low resource settings. This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. 

You can access additional support material for the training modules here and here.  

Enquiries about the training or resources can be sent to atsiph.covid19@anu.edu.au