Sumary of ‘Scared and angry’: warnings ignored before Delta ripped through Wilcannia:
- By the time regional New South Wales was placed into lockdown, the virus had seeded into the tiny communities that break up the highways in the arid expanse of the far west, reaching as far as Enngonia in the north and Broken Hill in the south.
- For 18 months, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities limited travel in order to buy time to shore up the health response.
- In March last year, the far west Aboriginal health services wrote to the federal government to ask for help to prepare.
- The peak Aboriginal health body called for greater urgency in preparing communities and rolling out the vaccine, but those calls were ignored.
- Despite the efforts of First Nations communities to hold back the virus, which succeeded in making Indigenous people just 0.5% of all positive Covid cases in 2020, the state and federal governments were unprepared.
- More than 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have tested positive to Covid-19 since the start of June and three have died – all in western NSW.
- Wilcannia, population 745, about 550km west of Dubbo, was one of the worst affected.
- When the first case in the region was reported on 18 August, less than 20% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population over the age of 16 had received their first dose of a vaccine, and 8% had been fully vaccinated.