In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Victoria, we must all do our part. We know it’s tough, but together we can keep our families, mob and ourselves safe, strong and well.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community sector partners are working closely with government to coordinate response plans and ensure communities have the necessary information, resources and support they need.
Are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more at risk of COVID-19?
There are a couple of reasons why risk of COVID-19 transmission is higher and why it can cause more severe symptoms. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 years, or who have a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes, asthma, heart and lung conditions, or immune problems, are at higher risk of developing a severe illness associated with COVID-19. Younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can also get COVID-19 and infect family, friends and Elders.
As a lot of mob often live under the same roof, it’s also harder to practise physical distancing and isolation, which increases the risk of spreading the disease within the community.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The symptoms to watch out for are:
- Loss or changes in sense of smell or taste
- Chills or sweats
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
Headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea can also occur.
No matter how mild the symptoms, it is important that you get tested as soon as you show any of the symptoms of COVID-19. You must get tested every time you have symptoms, even if you have been tested before.
Testing in Victoria is:
- available at culturally safe health services; check in with your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCO) to find your nearest culturally safe testing point
- available to people with COVID-19 symptoms, however mild
- free and widely available
- fast, taking around a minute and involves a swab from the back of your throat and nose.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has a wide range of information available:
What do I do after the test?
After your test, you must return home immediately and stay home until you receive your test result. This is also known as isolating. You must do this because there is a risk that you could have COVID-19 and infect other people. For general information about what is involved in testing, visit the .
What can I do to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19?
There are four key things you can do to keep yourself, families and mob safe:
- Stay at home and get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild.
- Practise good hygiene – wash your hands regularly and cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
- Keep your distance – stay 1.5 metres away from anyone you don’t live with.
- Carry a fitted face mask that covers your nose and mouth when you leave home.
Are Victoria’s health and community services culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians?
Victorian health and human service providers are committed to creating an environment that is safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
How do Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations access personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies?
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations can access PPE and the supplies they need to keep workers and communities safe, provide testing, treatment and support services in Victoria.
Staying connected to community, Country and culture
Community is an important aspect to Aboriginal culture. It is important to stay connected with community and your social networks.
You can stay connected by:
- following your local Aboriginal community organisations on Facebook and/or Instagram for updates on their services
- joining local community groups on social media
- maintaining contact with loved ones via FaceTime and social media
- staying in contact with your employer to ensure you are getting regular updates relevant to your job
- looking after your physical and mental wellbeing by going out for some fresh air, a walk or some other exercise each day.
Current restrictions levels
From 26 March Victoria returns to COVIDSafe Settings restrictions.
Wear a face mask
Wearing a face mask protects you and your community by providing an additional physical barrier to COVID-19.
Everyone must wear a face mask when required, unless a lawful exception applies.
Can Sorry Business/Sad News still take place?
To help keep mob safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Sorry Business for Aboriginal communities and Sad News for Torres Strait Islander communities must be done in different ways. There are restrictions for how you conduct Sorry Business/Sad News, no matter where you live in Victoria.
Can I go camping on Country?
Camping on Country is allowed as you can currently travel anywhere in Victoria. There are no restrictions on the distance you can travel across Victoria.
Can mob gather outdoors?
You can leave home for any period of time to exercise or see friends and family outdoors. There are no limits on the number of times you can leave home.
You can meet in a group of up to 100 people outdoors in a public place. An outdoor public place means areas accessible to everyone, including local parks and beaches.
You must always carry a face mask with you when you leave home unless you have a lawful reason not to.
It is strongly recommended you wear one whenever you cannot keep 1.5 metres distance from others.
Financial help and support
What financial support is available?
If you are worried you will lose income while you wait for your test result, you may be eligible for a . This payment provides financial support while you are in isolation and waiting for your test results.
How do I access emergency relief?
We are working to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians are supported with their food and essential needs.
Emergency relief packages contain essential food staples including cereal, long-life milk, sugar, pasta and canned vegetables.
Personal care items such as soap, deodorant and toothpaste are also provided as part of the packages. Nappies and baby formula can be provided if requested. The packages do not include medicines, incontinence and personal hygiene products, or pet food.
There are several large supermarkets offering food and groceries priority access to vulnerable people during COVID-19. You can find eligibility criteria and more information about these services in the (Word).
What is the Coronavirus Aboriginal Community Response and Recovery Fund?
The Victorian Government has established a fund to support Aboriginal organisations and individuals to deliver community-led initiatives in response to the impacts of COVID-19.
The fund will provide grants for initiatives that support emergency relief, outreach and brokerage, cultural strengthening, and social and emotional wellbeing.
Looking after your mental health
It’s important that mob looks after their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember that you are not alone, and support is available. Visit the for resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.
If you or someone you love is feeling anxious, lonely or uncertain, you can call:
- Yarning SafeNStrong - Call (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). A free and confidential phone crisis line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and families who just want to have a yarn with someone about their wellbeing.
- Dardi Munwurro Aboriginal Men's Support Line - Call (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). A free and confidential phone support line for Aboriginal men to reach out to yarn with someone when times are tough.
- Lifeline Australia - Call (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). A crisis support service offering short term support at any time for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe.
- Beyond Blue - Call (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). A COVID-19 mental wellbeing support service.
Taking care of your mental and physical health has never been more important. Take a look at this resource for self-care advice that will help you feel healthier and happier.
Caring for Elders
Can I care for Elders?
You can visit Elders and other people in their homes for caregiving purposes. If you are a caregiver, you should practise proper hygiene, minimise physical contact, and always wear a fitted face mask that covers your nose and mouth if you do not live with the person. Please remember that Elders and any Aboriginal person aged over 50 is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing severe symptoms.
Supporting Elders in the aged care sector
Family violence support
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000.
Family violence support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians is also available through the where you can choose to be supported by an Aboriginal Worker or be referred to an Aboriginal service.
Information for people with disability
The First Peoples Disability Network has also developed a series of short films to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure families and communities are safe.
Reviewed 06 April 2021