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Australian sporting & Indigenous champion inspires the women of Yarrabah

Peter McCullagh

Australian sporting great and former federal senator, Nova Peris is visiting the north and will feature today as the keynote speaker at the Yarrabah Women’s Gathering.

 Almost 200 women from the Yarrabah Community will attend the Gathering to be held Wednesday May 15, where “Living Without Fear” is the theme for this year’s Gathering.

 Gurriny Yealamucka’s chief executive, Suzanne Andrews is pleased to welcome Nova to Yarrabah and to the Women’s Gathering.

 “To have such an inspirational Indigenous Woman as our keynote speaker is a milestone in the growth of the Women’s Gathering and its place in our community.

 “Nova’s journey and story is not only inspirational but also reflective of the journey many of our young women are currently on.

 Having Nova here will inspire and has created such an excitement within Yarrabah, it’s incredible,” Ms Andrews said.

 Nova Peris was Australia’s first Indigenous Olympic gold medalist and in 2013 was the first Indigenous woman to be elected to Federal Parliament.

 “I last visited Yarrabah almost 15 years ago, so when the opportunity arose to attend the Yarrabah Women’s Gathering I was excited.

 “It’s so important that we take the time to lift and support our Indigenous women. We all know that life always throws challenges at us, having the opportunity as women to gather, support, learn and yarn is so important.

 “I’m looking forward to meeting with the women and sharing some of my journey as well as hearing and understanding their journey stories.”


 The Yarrabah Women’s Gathering is one of the key events hosted by Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services in Yarrabah. Now in its fourth year the Gathering will this year shine the light brightly on family and domestic violence.

 “There’s never an excuse for family and domestic violence,” Ms Andrews stated, “but we are only too aware that over 4000 people shoehorned into 414 houses is a recipe for pressure and stress within the strongest family.

 “Our goal this year with the Gathering is to inspire our women, creating a network of support and resilience, and take steps forward to combat family and domestic violence and it would be fitting if our women in community could all live without fear.”

Yarrabah disease outbreak. APSGN can cause long-term kidney problems

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services (GYHSAC) are advising Yarrabah families that there is currently an outbreak of Acute Post Streptococcal Glomerulonephritis (APSGN) in the Yarrabah community primarily affecting children aged between two and 15 years. Younger children, adolescents and adults can also be affected.

APSGN is a kidney disease that can develop after certain skin and throat infections. You cannot give APSGN to other people, however, the bacteria that cause the skin infections and sore throats can be passed from person to person.

Dr Jason King, Gurriny Yealamucka’s Director of Clinical Services said APSGN is most common in children.

"There is no simple treatment for APSGN and the prevention of streptococcal skin and throat infections remains the most important control strategy," Dr King said.

“We commence tomorrow with an extensive screening program in our schools. If we identify cases we immediately commence with contact tracing along with an outreach screening program in community.

"APSGN is not contagious, however Strep A is an issue for community. Washing hands and your body on a regular basis using soap along with ensuring bed linen and clothing are laundered will help to slow the spread of Strep A.”

What parents/carers/families should do to prevent the bacteria that leads to APSGN from spreading


  • Get all skin sores treated quickly; keep skin clean by washing with soap and water every day.
  • Cover all skin sores with a clean dressing.
  • Go to your local health clinic or hospital straightaway if your child or family member has:
    • Dark, coke coloured urine
    • Puffy eyes, a swollen face or swollen feet
    • Headache
    • Fever
    • Flank  pain or swelling


Children diagnosed with APSGN may require admission to hospital for management of high blood pressure and other symptoms caused by APSGN.

Medical students get hands-on experience

Chris Messina and Bridie Pearce, two James Cook University medical students, have taken on a two-week practical placement with Yarrabah's Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services clinics.

These students have been given the opportunity to work alongside the medical professionals in charge of the health and wellbeing of over 4,000 Yarrabah community members.

Ms Pearce, a former laboratory scientist, went back to university to become a doctor and is now taking in the health inequalities in the area, noting how the healthcare system adapts to the community's needs.

“I wanted to come to Yarrabah, I’m only too aware of the health inequalities and in some cases limited access to some specialist health services and I’m excited by the way Gurriny has been able to adapt to and work with their community to address this,” said Ms Pearce.

“What has totally impressed me is the way health care in this community adapts to the community’s needs.

“Yesterday we spent the day in an outreach capacity, clients did not have transport or were able to get into the clinic so we took the clinic to them.

“In one instance we conducted a medication review in the client’s lounge room, by the end of the consult, they understood and appreciated what medication they were on, why and how to ensure they get the best from their schedule,” she said.

Mr Messina, a pharmacist and diabetes educator, is inspired to do more for those affected by diseases such as RHD, kidney disease, and diabetes. He does not want these issues to be normalised and accepted as part of life.

“I worked as a pharmacist as well as a diabetes educator, but really wanted to do more.

“It’s too easy to just accept the burden of disease, and for communities to accept that this is the just the way it is.

“Today, no one should have to live with RHD, kidney disease or even diabetes, I trust we never normalise disease and just accept that as our lot in life,” he said.

Photo: Indigenous Health Worker Leshonta Lyons with JCU medical students Bridie Pearce and Chris Messina

Great initiative but poorly executed

Peter McCullagh

The Queensland government in association with the federal government, announced today a major boost to Queensland families, with free NBN access designed to “narrow the digital divide and promote greater inclusion for disadvantaged families.”

 Whilst this may be a great opportunity for some in the south east corner of our state, for the 4000 residents of Yarrabah, they are once again ignored and continue to remain digitally disadvantaged.

 Suzanne Andrews, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services’ chief executive is dismayed that once more, state and federal governments are ignoring First Nations people in remote and regional areas and appear to be doing little to close the digital divide.

 “In early 2022 the Queensland government promised greater internet speeds for students, from Yeppoon to Yarrabah, with fibre optic connection to schools.  This has not happened.

“Now disadvantaged students are offered 12 months free NBN connection, but Yarrabah and many remote and regional communities will not qualify.

 “The NAPLAN results announced recently reveal that the best performing students are from higher socio-educational backgrounds, in urban areas, or from non-indigenous backgrounds,” Ms. Andrews stated.

 “The offer is good, but its misdirected. The families who could benefit most are excluded. The Federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland states in the media release, that ‘Reliable, quality, high speed internet is not a luxury or a nice-to-have. It is essential 21st century infrastructure and that will only become more important as young Queenslanders grow up.’

 “So, what are they pledging for communities like Yarrabah? How are they assisting disadvantaged families living on the door step of a world leading city like Cairns?

 “For years we have been campaigning for improved internet and telecommunications infrastructure and connection with the outside world, and for years we are ignored. 

“Once again, funding is being misdirected and not being applied directly to communities with the most need.

 “For our community to access reliable all-weather internet we are forced to subscribe to an international service provider Starlink because the Australian NBN service will not connect fibre optics into Yarrabah.

 “However, towns like Longreach, with less population and situated more than 600 kilometres from Rockhampton have fibre optic NBN, but we are 50 kilometres from Cairns and we cannot access fibre optic NBN!”

 “Good intentions, but poorly executed.  This is once again why we need to have an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, so Indigenous communities have a direct say in program and initiatives that directly affect them.”

International students visit Gurriny

Photos: Brooklyn Mullins

Understanding the complexities of Indigenous primary health was the main motivation behind a visit of international medical and allied health students to Yarrabah this week.

Gunggandji man, Daniel Noble, a teacher educator with TAFE Queensland accompanied the 19 students during their visit to Yarrabah and tour through the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services facilities in Community.

The students spent the day, speaking to doctors and clinicians, gaining valuable insights into the important function of primary healthcare in Yarrabah.

Picture:  Dr Oscar Whitehead, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services General Practitioner with Ayano Nagatomo, Saori Itonaga and Rintaro Kuroki from Japan.


20 years of loyal service

Peter McCullagh

Wanting to work for, and with her Community and family has been the motivation for Kayleen Jackson over the past 20 years.

In early April, Gurriny Yealamucka’s Family Healing Intake Officer, Kayleen Jackson celebrated 20 years with the Service.

 “I was a single mum, looking after my children and my mother before I started with Gurriny as a Family Wellbeing Assistant, but felt I could do more,” she said.

Kayleen was one of the founders of bringing forth the dream of a Community controlled health service in Yarrabah. This dream was of a holistic health service approach that fits with Yarrabah Communities world view; their identity around physical, mental, spiritual wellbeing. 

Kayleen had the opportunity to attend one of the first Family Wellbeing Sessions facilitated by Komla Tsey. That was a turning point in her life. With the encouragement and mentoring from Senimelia Kingsburra, Gurriny’s first Family Wellbeing Officer, Kayleen completed the Family Wellbeing course and has continued her journey of studying and has never looked back.

 “Knowing I can help my Community and make a real difference, that’s what gets me up each morning and motivates me to come to work.”

“It has not been easy. We are really finding it tougher now after COVID than before.

“The cost of living, the overcrowding in houses in Yarrabah, the lack of real employment is impacting on Community and thus making our jobs within the Social and Emotional Teams (SEWB) more challenging. “Luckily, I work with a great team within SEWB and we rally together supporting each other, helping each of us get through the tough times when we are hearing everyday about people’s hardships.”

There have been many highpoints in Kayleen’s career spanning two decades.  A highpoint was being invited to attend the National Apology Celebrations this year in Canberra. This event features strongly with Kaylene as she knew she had her ancestors beside her at this event. Kayleen had the opportunity to sit across the table with government Ministers, and advocate strongly for the social emotional and spiritual wellbeing of her Community.

“We have achieved so much in the past 20 years, but the job is not done until we have better health and wellbeing outcomes for our community as well as access to many of the essentials that the rest of Australia take for granted. Such as, affordable and appropriate housing, employment opportunities as well training and education for our kids.  I’m pleased to have worked for my Community for the past 20 years and proud of the changes we have created.”

Just what the Doctor ordered

Peter McCullagh

In a move that strengthens and reinforces Gurriny’s commitment to providing culturally safe care, Gunggandji Elder and Traditional Owner, Doctor (Dr) Darryl Murgha has been appointed Cultural Heritage Specialist at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation.

One of Dr Darryl’s first tasks for Gurriny was to welcome the Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Honorable Emma McBride to Community with a Traditional Smoking Ceremony.

Dr Murgha graduated from University of Queensland in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology and Anthropology. Since graduating Dr Mugha has worked as an Archaeology Ranger for the Queensland- Department of Community Services and Ethnic Affairs, Artefacts Manager at the Warrama Living History Centre in Cairns, Ranger with Yarrabah Aboriginal Council and various Queensland Government agencies, and Manager of the Menmuny Museum at Yarrabah, among other roles.

In April 2021, Darryl Murgha and Bernie Singleton were recognised and awarded Honorary Doctorates from James Cook University in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the documentation of cultural heritage in far north Queensland, education in cultural heritage and the establishment of Indigenous enterprise.

Dr Darryl Murgha will conduct Cultural Heritage Induction workshops for all Gurriny employees as well as consulting with all programs regarding cultural matters and appropriateness. 

Ever Yarrabah Man Needs His Shed   

It makes deadly sense for the men of Yarrabah to band together and breathe new life into the Yarrabah Men’s Shed.

Like many clubs and services around Australia, COVID impacted heavily upon the willingness, availability and passion for the Yarrabah Men’s Shed, however a recent public meeting in the community has reignited the passion and drive to reopen the shed and start to cater for the growing number of men seeking cultural and social connection.

Brent Pearson, a Yarrabah local man has for a number of years campaigned strongly for the reopening of the Yarrabah Men’s Shed.

“We need a space for our men, a space where they can gather, yarn, learn and share their skills and experiences.”

The Yarrabah Shire Aboriginal Council had provided a building a number of years ago for the Men’s Shed. The meeting held this week has galvanized the community to rekindle and reopen this building.

“We want to run programs that inspire our men, allowing them to learn new skills, create new industries and most importantly support them culturally and emotionally.”

A lack of unemployment and training opportunities are the unfortunate reality faced by many of the men in Community. The Yarrabah Men’s Shed plan to create a space where their men can learn new skills, gaining valuable experience as well as acquiring much needed employment pre-requisite accreditations and qualifications.

“We will work closely with many of the programs already in community, Gindaja Men’s Warrior Program and Gurriny’s Men’s Health and Wellbeing Program, broadening the reach of these programs and being more inclusive of our men, “said Brent Pearson.

Gurriny Yealamucka’s Men’s Health and Wellbeing has conducted numerous community consultation programs in the past four years. Family, culture, health and jobs all featured strongly as priorities in community.  Father les Baird, Gurriny’s Family Wellbeing Coordinator is feeling very excited about the rejuvenated men’s shed.

“I work with our community members who are in Lotus Glenn Correctional Centre, presenting our Family Wellbeing Empowerment Program.  Having the Yarrabah Men’s Shed operating will allow us to continue this lifechanging work with them, when they return to community.

“Our Family Wellbeing program is vital in Yarrabah as well as Lotus Glenn, with such a large number of our community affected by the stolen generation and multi-generational trauma, our program running in Lotus Glenn as well as the Men’s Shed supports them and gives them the tools to cope and change their life outcomes.

“The men’s shed it’s for the men, and by the men.”

Indigenous community unites against youth crime

YARRABAH Community leaders are fed up with the behaviour of a small number of community members and universally declare, “Enough is Enough”.

 Led by Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor, Ross Andrews, Yarrabah community leaders gathered today to lend their collective voice, appealing for community members to take a stand against the escalating youth crime issues here in Yarrabah and across far north Queensland.

 “Enough is enough, the community is sick and tired of the behaviour of a small number of community members, along with an apparent lack of supervision and responsibility from some parents.

“We are not talking about hundreds of kids creating issues, it’s less than a dozen who are running riot, and we need their parents as well as the youth justice system to take responsibility, and help to bring these kids under control, he said.

The recent figures for joyriding paint a grim picture. The number of joyriders has almost tripled in the past few years, creating a feeling of anger and despair within the Yarrabah community.

 “It’s got to stop before we have a repeat of the tragic circumstances of a few years ago in our region. 

 “The consequences for these young offenders do not discourage them. What we need is the government, community, families and justice system to work together to fix this.

 “There does not appear to be sufficient deterrents in place, so we have some of our youth running riot. Service providers and Queensland Police Services in the Yarrabah Community try their utmost best, but the disengagement is quite challenging.”

 Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services chief executive, Suzanne Andrews sees the car theft issue as part of wider issues in Yarrabah.

 “The solution is not just a simple one of punishment for crimes committed. We need to address many of the social issues that contribute to this problem. We have to treat and address the causes and not just the symptoms.

 “Over crowding along with unemployment and economic disadvantage all contribute to this problem.

 “What we do need is greater accountability and responsibility along with a willingness from governments to address many of the social determinants that contribute to the rising crime rates here,” she said.

 Currently there is only one Youth Bail Support Officer working with youth offenders in Yarrabah. The program is run by Gindaja Treatment and Healing in Yarrabah in association with YETI (Youth Empowered Towards Independence) based in Cairns.

Ailsa Lively, chief executive office with Gindaja Treatment and Healing is seeing and experiencing the frustration of parents and the Yarrabah community on a daily basis.

“We applied for funding for a second support officer but unfortunately it was knocked back.

“The Youth Bail Support Officers are a vital cog in this issue. We need to work with the youth offenders, designing plans that address their issues and reducing the instances of them reoffending. The support of government is critical here,” Ms Lively said.

 Mayor Ross Andrews called upon the wider far north Queensland community not to judge Yarrabah by the actions of a handful of the community, but instead join with his community leaders and petition for changes to the Youth Justice Act as well as greater accountability from parents of the offending youth.

 Mayor Andrews has been advocating for a few years now the introduction of the Families Responsibility Commission (FRC) to workshop its intent as an intervention and prevention program to complement service delivery and to restore personal responsibility and greater accountability back into the community.  Currently, the FRC is under review by Government. 

Time to abandon NQ Pharmacy experiment

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid; AMA Queensland Councillor, Dr Lee Jones; RACGP representative, Dr Nicole Higgins; Cairns GP, Dr Aileen Traves spoke at a Press Conference, in Cairns recently (Wednesday 20 July 2022), about the North Queensland pharmacy prescribing experiment.

Dr Khorshid said “This trial is actually being run entirely in Queensland by the Queensland government. It is not supported by the previous federal government, it’s not supported by the Pharmacy Board of Australia, and it’s not supported by any reputable professional organisations, medical organisations, because it is dangerous.

Now, Queensland has chosen not to listen to those messages from learned colleges, from the AMA, from other concerned professional regulators, they’ve decided that they’re going to do this.”

“I visited the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service in Yarrabah, just south of Cairns, where doctors, nurses, pharmacists, public health workers, Aboriginal health workers and Queensland Health employees work together to address the health needs of their community in a model that works.

“They deliver care in a culturally safe and appropriate manner in consultation with the community. A community pharmacist is embedded in the health centre.

“I was shocked to be told by these hardworking GPs and allied healthcare workers that not only is their community targeted as a site for the pharmacy prescribing trial, but that the Premier and Health Minister have not been to Yarrabah in this term of government, if at all.

“No-one has bothered to ask patients, doctors and allied healthcare workers in Yarrabah, or anywhere else in North Queensland, if they need or want the prescribing trial,” he said.

Gurriny Yealamucka's Director of Medical Services, Dr Jason King believes the government's NQ Pharmacy experiment seriously compromises patient safety and is not needed in Yarrabah.

"We take a team-based approach to healthcare in our community. Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers form community, along with visiting specialists, all combining together to deliver the best possible and culturally safe care to our community.  Will 3 weeks of online training by a pharmacist replace that?"

Jan's a true green fan

By Peter McCullagh

WHILST support within community might be high for NRL teams like Cowboys and Broncos, there are a couple of passionate very dedicated Canberra Raiders fans.

Gurriny Yealamucka’s Policy Officer, Nigel Hacker recently went out of his way to bring some real Raiders’-Cheer to Aunty Jan Harris.

“Being an ex-Canberra boy, Jan and I have had several conversations on the NRL season and in particular the Canberra Raiders who we both follow in the NRL.

“Being involved with the ACT Brumbies in Canberra I was aware of the inner workings of these organisations and that they had a certain amount of funding and merchandise that is earmarked for community gifting. 

“Whilst pondering the fact that I hadn’t seen Jan in a Raiders Polo or Jersey, I thought that  it might be something I could rectify with a well worded letter to the Raiders as they may well have some merchandise that they could send to her,” Nigel said

As a result, Nigel drafted and sent a letter describing Jan as a remote FNQ outpost of Raiders allegiance in the Yarrabah Community who proudly made known to all her love for the Green Machine and asked if the club would be able to provide any merchandise that they might have available. 

Nigel’s request was forwarded by the club to the board. The prospect of helping Aunty Jan out with club merchandise was well received, but not just for merchandise, they also provided a signed Raiders Indigenous Round jersey! 

A public presentation of the framed jersey was planned for a very unsuspecting Jan. “We snuck up on her and ambushed her in the tea room, having the CEO and GM along probably made her think she was in hot water but thankfully this was short-lived. 

“Jan was unaware of the process that got the jersey there so I quickly brought her up to speed and then presented her with the Jumper. 

“To say she was surprised would be an understatement but in typical Aunty Jan style, she took a moment, absorbed the situation and then once she worked out it was hers to keep was very grateful”.

“Jan let us know that she would be putting the jersey up so that anyone who walked in the front door would be looking straight at it and know they are in Raiders territory!

The Raiders have since sent correspondence back to us saying that her picture and our correspondence has been shown to the team to show them the impact they have on the wider community and what the Raiders stand for. 

Aunty Jan should take great pride in her support for her club, and the fact that she has now been used as a source of club pride to help the team understand what they are about.

“Here at the club, we are always talking about being bigger than the game and this goes to show the Raiders impact the wider community and what we stand for. It is our pleasure to provide the Jersey and I will be sure to pass on the below email and photos to the football manager and onto the team. “

Jan has also been asked to catch up with the Raiders crew if she is ever in Canberra.

Let's all get rid of RHD

By Peter McCullagh

ACROSS Australia, more than 5,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are currently living with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) or its precursor, acute rheumatic fever (ARF).

Most at risk of developing the disease are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-15, who are 55 times more likely to die of the disease than their non-Indigenous peers.

The tragic fact is that Yarrabah has one of the highest numbers of RHD and ARF in Australia with almost than 200 cases recorded.

Of the 200 cases there are 15 RHD sufferers in Yarrabah who have undergone surgery to repair damaged heart valves, some have had to endure multiple surgeries in their life.

RHD and ARF starts with a sore throat or a skin sore caused by a Strep A infection. If left untreated the infection can develop into ARF, where permanent heart damage occurs and RHD is the result.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Corporation GP, Dr Peter Roach has been treating RHD and ARF sufferers in Yarrabah for the past six years.’

“RHD is not hereditary, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more at risk, due to many of the common issues they confront on a daily basis. This is a disease of poverty and disadvantage.

“Sub-standard housing combined with poor facilities like functioning showers, adequate hot water and a lack of functioning clothes washing facilities, put our community members at risk from ARF and RHD.

“RHD is commonly seen in developing countries, to have so many cases in Yarrabah as well as the rest of Australia is a national shame. We urgently need assistance to tackle the cause of this disease so we can prevent new cases, as well as funding to improve the quality of life for those already living with the disease.

“Until we start to address the overcrowding and poor standard of housing in our community, we will always have RHD in Yarrabah,” he said.

There is not cure for rheumatic heart disease, and the damage caused to the heart values are permanent. Patients with severe rheumatic heart disease will often need surgery to replace or repair the damaged valves. Less severe cases can be managed with an antibiotic injection every 3 to 4 weeks over a 10-year period, or for the younger sufferers until they reach the age of 21 years, whichever is longer.

This treatment can reduce the need for surgery as well as significantly reducing the mortality rate attached to the disease.

“Once you have RHD, there’s no cure, but it is totally preventable, all we need is the willingness from government to address the cause and we can end RHD and ARF.”

Australian skincare company MooGoo have partnered with Gurriny Yealamucka to supply all members of the community with a year's supply of their all-natural Milk Body Wash.

Already we have distributed more than 800 bottles of the body wash into community and established refill stations at our clinics as well as the Yarrie Bakery in the mission. Additional refill site will be announced soon.

Residents are advised to grab their free refillable bottle of MooGoo, use it daily to keep their skin nourished and reduce the risk of scabies and skin sores. When their bottle is empty, take it to a refill station and refill it for free.

If we continue to wash and bath daily, using MooGoo, as a community we can reduce the risk of ARF and RHD in our community.

Obviously, there will need to be additional steps taken by the government to create more and better housing solutions for Yarrabah, but the MooGoo free body wash offer will make a significant difference to our community.


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

By Peter McCullagh

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

By Peter McCullagh

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


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

Davis Stimpson of SV Partners

07 3310 2005

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

By Peter McCullagh

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

By Peter McCullagh

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.”

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