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First Nations people: Information

Everybody is at risk of getting coronavirus (COVID-19). For most people, they will only develop mild illness and recovery easily, but others may develop severe sickness that affects the lungs.

People with weaker immune systems are more likely to get seriously ill. This puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and people with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) at risk.

Queensland Health is working closely with key stakeholders across the state to ensure that First Nations Queenslanders have access to current, culturally appropriate and localised information.

This page contains information to help you protect yourself, your family and community.

Why is COVID-19 dangerous for First Nations people?

First Nations people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19 because:

  • Living arrangements and social connectedness (particularly where many people are living or gathering in one household), makes transmission more likely.
  • First Nations people have higher levels of pre-existing health conditions (particularly diabetes and respiratory conditions). People with these health conditions, especially those aged over 50, are at risk of more severe COVID-19 outcomes.
  • Increased remoteness makes access to health care more challenging.
  • COVID-19 can spread quickly—it will only take one person coming into the community with the sickness to put the whole community at risk.

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19

The signs of COVID-19 are a fever and a cough. People may also have a sore throat, shortness of breath, tiredness and aches.

Find out more about the symptoms of COVID-19 and how they compare with common cold and flu.

What should I do if I get sick?

  • Call Queensland Health on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice on care and testing if you think you or a family member may have COVID-19 and your symptoms are mild.
  • Call emergency services on 000 if anyone is very unwell.
  • Call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 if you want more information on COVID-19. This line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you think you have COVID-19, always call your doctor or hospital before you visit.

How can I protect my community and Elders?

You can protect yourself and others by:

  • not travelling to places in your community, or other communities, unless you have to
  • staying 2 big steps away from other people
  • still taking any medicines you use — this way you’ll stay as healthy as possible
  • not sharing cups or water bottles
  • not smoking or sharing smokes with other people
  • getting a flu shot to protect yourself and your family from the flu too.

Read more about how to protect yourself and others.

How can I protect myself?

First Nations people are at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Even if you are feeling well it is important to take steps to prevent the virus from spreading.

Good hygiene and social distancing (also called physical distancing), are the best defences against COVID-19.

It is important that you talk to your doctor or pharmacy about getting a flu jab as soon as it is available.

Find out more about how you can protect yourself and others.

Practical tips for social (physical) distancing 

It can be difficult to practice social (physical) distancing if you:

  • share a small residence with other people
  • live in over-crowded homes or communities
  • share a house with a large or extended family
  • live between several residences.

These practical tips can help protect those who are most vulnerable in your mob or community.

Can I leave my house?

The rules around leaving your house are relaxing. You can now leave your house for more activities.

These rules do not apply to people who live in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. If you live in a remote community you need to follow travel restrictions to keep you and your community safe.

Can I have visitors at my home?

Even if they seem healthy and well, visitors could put your health at risk. Where contact with people is essential you must follow the guidelines on social distancing (also called physical distancing).

In Queensland there are restrictions on the number of people you should have in your home. These limits do not apply to carers, support workers or other essential service providers.

These limits are changing often so check the website or ask your local council, hospital or clinic.

Keeping in touch with your community

Staying connected with family, friends and your community is important. Some ways you can do this are:

  • calling people for a yarn on the phone
  • talking about the community and checking if they are OK
  • talking about the virus and how to stop the spread
  • connecting to family and friends on social media.

How can I keep my spirit strong?

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every area of our lives - our health, job security, family life, and ability to engage in cultural practices. It is normal to feel things like anxiety, distress, and fear. Some people may feel grief and loss for how things used to be, particularly as we are unsure when things will go back to ‘normal’.

While COVID-19 has changed ways of being and doing, it has not changed ways of knowing. It is important that through this time, we keep our cultural knowledge strong and we draw strength from it. While physically distancing, it is more important than ever that we remain socially, emotionally and culturally connected.

Strong Spirit, Safe Mob is a collection of tips and resources we have developed to help you keep your spirit strong so you can keep yourself, your family and your community safe. It draws on the strength and resilience Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people already hold through connection to culture, family and community.

Sorry Business and Sad News during COVID-19

Culture and ceremony, such as large gatherings for Sorry Business, are very important to our communities.

To keep our communities healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak, funerals with more than ten people are not allowed. This will help protect our Elders and those who already have health problems.

Travel restrictions are also in place across Queensland, so people will not be able to travel to attend gatherings.

See the DATSIP factsheet for more information about Sorry Business and funerals.

See the Queensland Health Funeral exemption protocol to understand the current restrictions and what is required by the Chief Health Officer of Queensland to consider an exemption to the current restrictions.

Travel restrictions to remote communities

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, under the Biosecurity Act 2015 the Australian Government has restricted entry to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (‘designated areas’).

Designated areas in Queensland include the local government areas of Aurukun, Burke, Cook, Cherbourg, Doomadgee, Hope Vale, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Mapoon, Mornington Island, Napranum, Northern Peninsula Area, Palm Island, Pormpuraaw, Torres Strait Island, Torres, Woorabinda, Wujal Wujal, Weipa and Yarrabah.

There will be penalties for anyone deliberately breaching these laws and putting these communities in danger.

If you are planning to travel to or through a discrete Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community you will need to apply for a Remote Communities Pass.

Further information on these travel restrictions is available on the DATSIP website.