The Chair of Queensland’s Indigenous Health peak body has called comments by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk “a slap in the face” to Queensland’s Indigenous community.
The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council Chair, Matthew Cooke expressed ‘profound disappointment’ that the state government had not consulted with the Indigenous community before setting a date to open the state’s borders.
The state’s borders are set to open to domestic travellers at 70 per cent vaccination, expected on November 19.
As of October 20, Indigenous vaccination rates in Queensland sits at 40 per cent with a single dose of a vaccine and 30 per cent double dosed, with the general population at 58 per cent and 73 per cent respectively.
Cooke called for an urgent meeting with the Premier to address the impact that reopening would have on Indigenous people, who are vaccinated at a rate 30 per cent lower than the general population.
When asked on Wednesday at a press conference why the Government had not consulted with the Indigenous community before the plan was announced, the Premier said she had spoken to Indigenous community council mayors about the plans after they were announced.
“I spoke with all of the mayors after we made the announcement, and I have Ministers across the length and breadth of Queensland today and a lot of them are in Indigenous communities,” she said.
“I say to our First Nations people that we want you to come forward and get vaccinated and over the coming days we will have announcements to make it easier for you to get vaccinated.”
Cooke called the comments a “slap in the face” to First Nations people who don’t live in remote communities.
“It’s the absolute ignorance of the Premier to believe that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Queenslanders live in remote communities, she is well aware that there are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban rural regional and remote communities,” Cooke said.
“And speaking to Aboriginal Council Mayors only is an absolute slap in the face to all of us that do not live in remote discreet communities and she is well aware of that.”
“She didn’t even consult her own Chief Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officer before releasing that new COVID vaccine plan for Queensland and setting the date on opening borders.”
Cooke labelled her statement as “totally unacceptable”
“No, she has not reached out to the peak health body in Queensland for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health,” he said.
Cooke said he has received no offers of a meeting with the Premier, despite both Cooke and Palaszczuk being in Townsville today.
“Well I was at the same hotel where the Premier was having lunch today and we ran into one of her senior staff and we still can’t get together for a chat about one of the most vulnerable populations in Queensland,” he said.
“We’ve had government reach out to us, but the reality is we’re asking for the Premier.”
By Sarah Smit