Latest News


A failure to provide adequate communications technology compromises community care and safety

Connecting communities for a stronger future was a key pillar of the 2022 Federal Budget announced yesterday. The government pledged to spend more than $5.6 billion in their quest to improve the regional Communications and Arts sectors.

Of particular interest to Yarrabah and Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service was the pledge to spend $1.3 billion enhancing regional telecommunications. Within this allocation, the government promised an additional $811.8 million expanding the mobile coverage and improving connectivity in regional and remote Australia.

Internet, telecommunications and mobile phone connectivity in the small community on the doorstep of Cairns could be described as primitive at the best of times.

Mobile phone coverage is poor to non-existent across the community along with zero internet coverage whenever the slightest of rain showers occurs.

The recent COVID outbreak highlighted the disastrous communication service issues for the community.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Director of Clinical Services, Dr Jason King has battled poor telecommunication for a number of years, and sees it as a major hinderance to providing appropriate healthcare to the region.

“During the height of the recent COVID outbreak, our efforts to reach all corners of the Yarrabah community were greatly hampered by this challenging telecommunication landscape.

“With sub-standard or totally non-existent telecommunications infrastructure, we could not team-conference, to adequately, and easily plan our COVID responses.

“Many community members have zero access to phone communications and internet, further complicating the delivery of essential messaging at the height of the outbreak.

“This community is situated so close to Cairns, yet we are light-years away from them when it comes to telecommunications,” he said.

With a predicted new wave of COVID set to hit Australia in winter, the pressure will be heightened with increased isolation requirements along with increasing absenteeism within the workforce.

Telehealth has long been seen as a suitable solution to providing a level of appropriate healthcare in a regional area.

“Telehealth is almost impossible in Yarrabah in the current telecommunication climate. In our community we cannot used mobile phones, our only alternative has been our very loyal and community focused community healthcare team. These amazing workers are our ‘mobile phone and internet’ link into the community.

“Imagine what we could do if we combined their amazing work with an appropriate level of telecommunication technology. The results would be incredible for our community.”

In December last year the government announced the provision of an additional $106 million over the coming four years to support telehealth initiatives in regional and remote Australia. This funding allowed health professionals to continue to consult with their regular patients by phone or video conferencing.

During COVID, telehealth played a critical role in ensuring continuity of care for hundreds of thousands of Australians, however this service could never be supported fully in Yarrabah due to it’s third-world access to telecommunications.


Collapse of funeral fund is a sorry state of affairs

Financial assistance to the hundreds of Yarrabah residents caught up in the collapse of the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) was the main topic of conversation this morning when Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services chief executive Suzanne Andrews met with Federal Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Stephen Jones.

Last week the final ACBF funds were placed into the hands of voluntary liquidators, leaving the savings of hundreds of Yarrabah residents and up to 30,000 First Nations mums and dads in limbo.

Receivers have been quoted as saying there is very little likelihood of any financial return to investors.

Ms Andrews joined with many community leaders throughout Australia, calling upon the federal government to step in and immediately underwrite the premiums of the policy holders.

“This is a clear case of a corporation taking advantage of the most socially disadvantaged members of the community, she said. The 2018 Banking Royal Commission heard countless reports of YOUPLA, the company selling and administrating ACBF, engaging in deceptive practices in the way they sold and represented the funds.

“Put this right up there with the stolen wages saga, and we once again have First Nation People being taken advantage of in the most insidious manner.

“The policies were sold to cover the funeral cost for families left behind with a loved one passes. Sorry Business is an important part of our culture and the collapse of these funds has had a devastating effect upon our community.

At a meeting last week in Yarrabah with representatives from the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (iCAN), local policy holders described the collapse as a “betrayal of their community” and expresses a mixture of stunned disbelief and anger at the way they felt they were “culturally manipulated” by the sales practices of YOUPLA.

Federal Member for Whitlam, and Shadow Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Stephen Jones describes the collapse of the funds as disgraceful.

“The Morrison Government has been on notice about this for years. In 2019 I wrote to the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg offering to work with him on a solution.

“People have been ripped off and it was happening in full knowledge of the government.

“Government has a responsibility to work with community on a remedy, “he said.

Candidate for Leichhardt, Elida Faith was also vocal regarding the need to protect the most socially and economically disadvantage members of our community.

“This is a bloody scandal. These people need an answer. They should not be left high and dry. They deserve some form of protection,” stated Ms Faith.

 Additional information:

The Liquidators appointed to the funds are:

Fund # 2

Robson Cotter Insolvency Group

07 32708500

ym@rcinsol.com.au

 

For all other funds #1, #3 and #4

Davis Stimpson of SV Partners

07 3310 2005

youpla@svp.com.au


Wednesday February 16, 2022

Yarrabah has peaked, focus is now on boosting community vaccination rates

Yarrabah’s increased vaccination level combined with a slowing of transmission through the community has resulted in a sharp decrease in the daily infection rates.

Daily infections continue to decrease with only 34 positive cases recorded in the past seven days, compared with 78 the previous week.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Director of Clinical Services, Dr Jason King is confident the worst has passed for Yarrabah.

“With a steady decrease in daily cases, it is obvious we are now moving through the tail of this outbreak.

“This will be welcome news for our community, but it will allow our teams to ramp up our vaccination drive,” he said.

Vaccination levels in Yarrabah continue to rise and currently are sitting at more than 50% of the 16+ community fully boosted.

“We have come a long way from the low 20 percent levels in August last year, to where we are currently with more than 83 per cent of the community double vaccinated.

“Our focus is now to lift significantly our booster rates. With the change to the waiting time, down to 3 months, it’s critical that we increase our booster rollout and protect our community fully.

“The current outbreak has ripped through the community with more than 720 cases registered in the community. This figure could have been greater.

“As a community we were 70 per cent double vaccinated at the start of the outbreak earlier this year.

“This was a key factor in slowing the transmission rate and keeping our community safe from the devastating effects of COVID.”

The focus now has moved from testing to vaccination, with an increased focus on lifting the vaccination rates on community members from 5 years of age. Children ages 5 to 11 were eligible for vaccination in early January.

In the current outbreak 117 children have tested positive for COVID. Vaccination levels for children are steadily rising, with almost 50 per of children aged 12 to 15 have received their two vaccination doses.

“Two years ago, when COVID came to Australia, the two most venerable groups were the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

“Statistically that is true, however COVID does not discriminate against age.  With almost 120 positive cases recorded in children we are urging all parents to vaccinate their children.

“With the resumption of school along with weekend sporting activities, we have seen a spike in cases across the state. Being vaccinated will significantly reduce the effects and severity of COVID, and keep our community safe.”

Vaccinations are available in Yarrabah at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services in Bukki Road along with their Workshop Road Clinic.

The Oceanic Health Group have two outreach members working in community this week with a focus upon members of the community due their booster shot.

An additional 6 positive cases have been identified in the past 24 hours in Yarrabah, bringing the total positive cases to 725 since the start of the outbreak in early January.

Currently there are 87 actives cases spread across 54 houses in the town.

The Fever Clinic is still operating in Yarrabah, attached to the Yarrabah ED in Bukki Road.

If residents have any COVID symptom they are advised to come to the clinic for urgent testing.

Vaccination rates continue to climb with 93.7 per cent of 16+ single vaccinated and 83.7 per cent double vaccinated. Booster rollout continues strongly with 50.1per cent of 16+ receiving their booster shot.**


**QLD Health notification as at Midnight Saturday Feb 12

PHOTO CAPTON:  Yarrabah resident Anthony Brown-Sexton and Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Community Care Team member Wendy Stafford.




Monday February 14, 2022

Overcrowding still hampers health in Yarrabah

Over the weekend we have 2 new cases and the number of active cases is also reducing appreciably.

Since the commencement of the outbreak in early January we have 711 positive cases identified with 56 households with active cases currently.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service’s Director of Clinical Services, Dr Jason King is feeling confident that Yarrabah was passed the worst in this current outbreak.

“It would appear that we have peaked here in Yarrabah. Active cases are falling along with a slowing in transmission. Our high vaccination levels are assisting us greatly here.

“The worrying issue for us will always be the overcrowding in housing,” he said.

“We can vaccinate everyone, vaccination provides a level of protection against COVID, however until we address the issue of chronic overcrowding we will always be at the mercy of a health pandemic.

“In 2018 we had a mumps outbreak here in Yarrabah.

“The Australian National University conducted an investigation that found poor existing housing and overcrowding made quarantine measures virtually impossible.

“These key factors were present in 2018 and roll forward 4 years, they are still here in play in Yarrabah.

“How can you effectively quarantine when you have up to 20 people living in the one house.”

Testing continues to be a focus in the community. Later this week the community outreach testing program returns to Yarrabah, with the Oceanic team conducting testing through to Thursday.

The Fever Clinic is still operating in Yarrabah, attached to the Yarrabah ED in Bukki Road.

If residents have any COVID symptom they are advised to come to the clinic for urgent testing.

Vaccination rates continue to climb with 93.7 per cent of 16+ single vaccinated and 83.7 per cent double vaccinated. Booster rollout continues strongly with 50.1per cent of 16+ receiving their booster shot.**


Tuesday February 2, 2022

COVID continues to impact upon Yarrabah

Although the number of daily positive cases in Yarrabah continues to increase, with now more than 500 cases the real success story is the steady growth in vaccination levels.

Vaccination levels in Yarrabah continue to climb with 81.5 per cent of the 16 plus population double vaccinated.

The increased vaccination levels are helping to slow the spread of COVID through the community and lessen the severity in those that do go on to catch it.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Director of Clinical Services Dr Jason King sees a massive positive in the latest vaccination figures.

“Currently we have had more than 70 per cent of households affected by COVID since the outbreak commenced earlier this month. Although the household figure is high we still only have a little over 12 people per thousand infected by the virus,” he said.

“It is difficult, if not impossible to socially isolate when you are living in a household with up to 20 people. This chronic overcrowding has a tremendous impact upon the healthcare of our community along with our ability to contain the virulent Omicron COVID variant.

 “The majority of the community has embraced our COVID messaging and doing all the right things.

“Our Community Outreach teams have worked tirelessly in the community, educating and protecting the vulnerable and sick, ensuring our community were protected and the risk of COVID reduced.”

Child vaccination levels continue to climb in Yarrabah with now 62.4 per cent of children aged 12 – 15 single vaccinated and 32 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose.

“With the school year commencing this month many vaccinations are seeing are from school aged children coming in for their second shot.”


Friday January 28, 2022

More than 60% of Yarrabah households affected by COVID

Chronic overcrowding caused by a serious lack of housing in Yarrabah is having a serious impact upon the healthcare of this community in the middle of a COVID outbreak.

With only 378 houses and a population of 4000 residents, serious overcrowding has impacted upon this community’s ability to combat the COVID outbreak.

Since the outbreak commenced in early January, 240 household have registered positive cases, with 170 households still with active cases.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services chief executive Suzanne Andrews described the situation at grim.

“How can members of a household isolate effectively when there’s up to 20 people living in the one house?

“It come does to simple math, we cannot house 4000 residents in 378 houses and expect to dodge the COVID bullet.

“Whilst our health workers are doing everything possible to keep mob safe, we are finding it difficult to slow the transmission of COVID purely because of the chronic overcrowding we have in our community,” she said.

Vaccination rates continue to increase within the Yarrabah community. Currently 81 per cent of the 16 plus population are double vaxxed, and 91.4 per cent are single vaccinated.

“This is a tremendous result considering where we were in August last year. Our residents have recognized the importance of vaccination and they are roiling up their sleeves to protect themselves, their family and their community.”

In the past 24 hours an additional 21 cases were identified in Yarrabah and over 100 Rapid Antigen Tests conducted in the community

With 290 active cases still within the community and an expected peak in case numbers in the next 7 to 10 days, Ms Andrews is encouraging resident who are close contacts or who have any symptoms of COVID to come forward for testing at the Fever Clinic attached to Yarrabah ED.


Tuesday January 25, 2022

Indigenous leader slams social media misinformation

We have all received the email from a member of the Nigerian royal family offering us untold wealth if we help them out with our bank details. We accept this is a scam, in the same way we accept that calls from NBN Technical Support are scams.

The latest ‘scam’ circulating on social media relate to the supposed death of Lachlan Leary from a COVID related heart attack.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services chief executive Suzanne Andrews spoke out today regarding the impact fake social media posts are having on the health care of her community.

“We all know the Nigerian prince emails and NBN Technical Support phone calls are a hoax. They are designed to steal our money.

“But what’s worse is the fake social media posts like the Lachlan Leary post, posts of this nature are appalling, they are designed to take our most precious, our children,” Ms Andrews stated.

“We commenced our children vaccination rollout earlier this month. In the first week we vaccinated more than 20 per cent of our kids.   

“Unfortunately, the Facebook fake post circulated through our community’s social media pages over the following weekend and we saw our number drop in the second week.

“The post is fake, totally discredited by Westmead Hospital in Sydney, but the damage has been done.

“In our community there are some members who have concerns regarding vaccination. These people are targeted by anti-vaxxers pushing their distorted truth with lies.

“If you have concerns regarding vaccination, speak to your GP or come and talk to our GPs.”


Monday January 24, 2022

Back to school safely

Parents are reminded with less than 2 weeks before the new school year commences, now is the time to get your school-aged children vaccinated against COVID-19.

The vaccine rollout commenced two weeks ago for all children aged 5 – 11-years and already more than 26 per cent of eligible children in Yarrabah have rolled up their sleeves to receive their first shot.

To be considered fully vaccinated, children need to receive two doses, 3 to 8 weeks apart.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services, Director of Clinical Services Dr Jason King is seeing first hand the benefits of the vaccination program already.

“We have had families present for testing from household with positive cases, the vaccinated children tested negative to COVID.

“Whilst the vaccine is not going to completely prevent you from catching COVID, it will reduce significantly the symptoms of COVID and reduce the risk of passing the virus onto other close contacts.” he said.

“It’s important that parents bring their kids in this week for their first vaccination.

““It takes at least 14 days before the body reaches a level of protection after each dose, so we need kids vaccinated now to ensure we do not have COVID affecting our schools once classes recommence. Kids are eligible for their second vaccine 3 weeks after their first jab. 

 “There’s a lot of misinformation going around on social media regarding vaccinations. The vaccine does not contain any live virus and will not cause the child to catch COVID-19.

“If parents have any concerns regarding the vaccine or vaccination process, they should speak to one of our GPs rather than doctor google or social media.

Parents wishing to have their children vaccinated can bring them to Bukki Road or the Workshop Road Clinic in Yarrabah. No appointment is necessary.


Tuesday January 18, 2022

Yarrabah passes the 90% milestone

The Yarrabah community has reached the important 90 per cent first vaccination level as the COVID vaccination rollout continues

 Gurriny Yealamucka chief executive, Suzanne Andrews announced today the achievement of the critical 90 per cent first vaccination level in the Yarrabah community.

“This is a critical milestone to achieve and a credit to the way the local community has embraced the vaccination message.

“Our second vaccination level continues to grow and we are only days away from reaching the 80 per cent double vaxxed milestone,” she said.

 Ms Andrews also praised the dedication and commitment to the vaccination rollout of all the Gurriny staff and Queensland Health employees.

“This has been a total team effort, community, Gurriny and Queensland Health, all pulling together to keep our mob safe.”

“In October we commenced with a door-to-door vaccination drive. This initiative was spearheaded by our Community Care Health workers and proved to be very successful in lifting our vaccination levels.

“Community healthcare is exactly that, working in the community to improve the health outcomes. Our outreach teams are in our community on a daily basis. This daily contact has been essential in educating our community about COVID as well as lifting the vaccination rates.”

CHHHS executive director COVID-19 vaccine program, Dr Don Mackie, welcomed news that the single-dose vaccination rate in Yarrabah had increased to more than 90 per cent.

“About three months ago, Yarrabah was singled out as having one of the lowest vaccination rates in Queensland,” Dr Mackie said.

“To go from there to where we are now, is a great achievement.

“This is a result of the hard work of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, together with Queensland Health staff at Yarrabah, our First Nations COVID-19 Response team, Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council, and our other health partners.

“Let’s keep the good work up, and get more than 90 per cent of the community double-vaxxed.

“We need to ensure that people in our communities have the best protection from serious illness or death as a result of COVID-19.”

                       More News