We have all had to adjust to living with COVID-19 in ways that best meet the needs of our community. This is shaped by many things including where we live, what services we have access to and what information is available to us.
In South Australia, a new approach is being led by six Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) that have joined forces to become the First Nations Philanthropic Funders Working Group (FNPFWG). Our broad focus is to create a community-informed and -led model to direct philanthropic funding for First Nations communities across the state. One of our first priorities is to listen to and work alongside our communities to make sure we are prepared for the effects of the ongoing pandemic. We know that what is going to make sense and work for remote, rural and regional Aboriginal communities needs to be specific to our situation and people.
We designed a response called Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands: Responding to COVID‑19. This targets three key areas of need we see in our communities and which we prioritised based on urgency and impact.
We knew some things would be easier to achieve and yet have immediate impact, such as providing food hampers, cleaning packs, HEPA filters for clinics and community-specific messaging. Other strategies will meet a massive need but require a more significant response, such as developing and deploying mobile vaccination clinics, and fit testing safety equipment for health workers. Finally, there are systemic issues that will require a different approach including training, briefing and coordinating COVID-19 outbreak rapid response teams of health professionals to support communities to respond effectively and developing sector emergency response planning in preparation for future COVID-19 outbreak scenarios.
To be successful, we recognised that we needed partners to bring our vision and approach to life. A chance meeting has grown into a close relationship with the Fay Fuller Foundation, who provide critical resourcing and support for our working group and helped to define our ideas. The Paul Ramsay Foundation heard about what we were trying to do and came on board as our major donor partner for this project, with funding going directly to realising our COVID-19 response activities. And well-aligned to our widespread locations and bringing expertise in grant processes and procedures, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal has come on board as our funding coordinator.
This true partnership approach is working. Over the past six months, food hampers and cleaning packs have reached some of the most remote communities in South Australia. We have designed posters and communications, rolling out right now, that we know will strike a chord with our people and encourage them to act – to get their COVID-19 vaccination or booster, or to stay home if they are unwell. Soon, specially fitted-out vehicles will travel to communities to offer a mobile vaccination service, ensuring that Aboriginal people in the most remote communities are not left out.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and we need to be ready to respond to keep our mob safe. Our ACCHOs have the expertise to make this happen and together, through this genuine partnership where each partner brings different strengths to the table, we can ensure that Aboriginal health is in Aboriginal hands.
We are proud to have created this model and be showing funders that, by placing trust in Aboriginal people to know what’s best for their community, we can achieve local solutions for our people.
For further information please contact [email protected]