COVID-19 vaccination – Mary G interview with Wayne Donaldson

In this radio interview, Mary G speaks with Wayne Donaldson, Chair of Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation, asking questions about how the Tjuntjuntjara community has responded to recent COVID-19 outbreaks, and how vaccination rates across the community have helped.

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MARY G: Hello everybody, it's me Mary G. Spinifex Health Services is a community controlled Aboriginal Health Service owned and operated by Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation for the Tjuntjuntjara community.

Today I'm speaking with Wayne Donaldson, one of my old boyfriends and the Chair of Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation. Now, a whole community effort has resulted in the community achieving high rates of vaccination against COVID-19. Most recently, the effort has been focused on vaccinating the community with a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, what we know as the COVID booster. Here is their story. Now before we go, Darling, can you just pronounce your community again?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Tjuntjuntjara

MARY G: Yeah. And what is the other name?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Paupiyala Tjarutja

MARY G: Paupiyala Tjarutja?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah, yeah that’s OK.

MARY G: Hello, darling, how are you?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Good, good, good, how are you?

MARY G: You miss me?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Haven’t seen you for a long time, eh?

MARY G: I know. I think you've been dodging me. You long way from me. Anyway. Can you tell us a little about your community where it is? How many people live in Tjuntjuntjara and what language is spoken out there?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah, so we are, we are at 630, 620 east of Kal is north of the tri-desert, and about an hour and a half away from the border, South Australia border. Right in the middle, yeah, pretty remote out here.

MARY G: And what language do you guys speak out there?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Talking Pitjantjarra language. Part of the Spinifex Anangu people.

MARY G: Ah, okay, well, I want to go back there one day, I might find a husband there!

WAYNE DONALDSON: Ah you might find one…Couple of young fellas here.

MARY G: Ah true. Now, Wayne, tell us about your community story since COVID-19 arrived in Australia in 2020. Did you close access to the community at all?

WAYNE DONALDSON: No, we didn't actually close community straightaway. Because a lot of people was out of out of community… some was stuck in town, Kalgoorlie, another lot of people was over at South Australia, another lot up north because we got access to go north road up into the APY Lands and the Nganjatjarra Lands, and a lot of the people here are related got ties right through the country. And we had to wait for them, most of them, to get back.

MARY G: So, what process did you use to introduce to everybody that Covid is coming?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Oh, we went straight to the Elders first. And gave them a bit of an education within the community interpreters so that old people get to them first, to pass the message on you know? So, they can enforce that the younger ones hurry up and do the right thing and get the jab if they need it. 

MARY G: Now that you in outbreak? How is the community feeling and reacting? Has community pre-planning paid off in the response?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Oh yeah, actually there's a couple of positive cases here now, it went right through the community. But because everybody's been double vaxxed and boosted, they haven't really felt the effects of the virus – so it’s came in through one side of the community. And they all had that there, was two weeks ago and the ladies got out of isolation and it moved around pretty quick to the children, you know? In the school environment right now. School is, schoolteachers are all positive. There's no school for a week, this week.

MARY G: How did you find out that there was COVID in your community?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Some of the community members come back from Kalgoorlie, which were positive like because when they came back, they went straight to the clinic and got tested, they did the right thing, at least we knew and could isolate them and get what they needed, food resources, you know, for the house, power, and everything like that there and that went along all right till another breakout from another side of the community

MARY G: What agencies helped your response like NACCHO, government or whatever?

WAYNE DONALDSON: We’ve got that government one, WA Health, NIAA, and if you do need RFDS Flying Doctors, they really understand why you come out for any serious cases, turning the effect on we've got that all in in place. But at the moment, we're traveling all right and everybody's like feeling like they’ve just got the ‘flu.

MARY G: Good. I mean good and bad. When vaccines became available in 2021, you had kept COVID out. What was the take up vaccination in the community like what both first and second dose and did how Spinifex health communicate the need for vaccines? Did leaders and Elders get involved?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah, the Elders was the first ones to go ahead head and get their vaccines. People sort of volunteered and came in and we just asked them you want to get the vaccine done? It's pretty high. Percentage.

MARY G: And what was the vaccination rate like before COVID come to your community? Yeah, did they get vaccination before they come?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Only the visiting people like contractors and contractors come out and do work out here they just two three days out of here. They already vaccinated we have to get the evidence that they're already vaccinated before they come out. And other community members from different community’s same thing, some of them got theirs in Kalgoorlie at Bega Health Service in Kalgoorlie even though they haven't got it out here they got it in town, most of them live in town now, I was gonna say the young fellas living in town looking out for you! Working in Bega.

MARY G: Well, that’s good news! How successful has your COVID-19 booster vaccination program been. The booster, that's been going good?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah, the booster one was is pretty high and good, successful. They was used to the first lot (you know) and they just, everybody just popped up and “yeah I’ll have my third one” – booster, got it done and they [inaudible].

MARY G: And why did the community decide to get the booster anyone encourage them?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah, there was encouragement we had to persuade them and talk to them and give them a bit of education about it but we should have done a little bit more I reckon in the first in the beginning you know in the beginning could of had like someone like yourself come out and promote the thing in the COVID-19 the booster shot or the ones before this to encourage people to think, for some.  Like a lot of them was unsure to take it in the beginning because all the all the social media and stuff you know? News, all different information they get over Facebook and all other sorts of stuff you know. They go: “I’m mooloo, I'm frightened. I might die if I take”. Some people thinking like that, you know? Once seen other people their Elders go and get their vaccine, vaccination and see they all right, they were no longer.

MARY G: So, with these high vaccination rates, how confident to community have protection, are they feeling good now that they have their vaccinations, they feeling good and safe now?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Are you feeling good and safe just the isolation part of the children they don't really still in their [inaudible] in their house and move around some places, with families all in the three houses in the one square in the middle of the community, and they sort of very crushing something changed, you know, I'll go see my aunty over here kids will move around like that. And that's how they spread that one before see. And then once that little area they was right after a week and a half or two but the community feeling pretty good because of that food and all that the government give and the money they need to feed your people (yeah?) when they isolate at home, they get people like myself and some other staff here, like the coordinator here, drop the food off to them.

MARY G: Supporting people when they are in isolation at home?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah, like the staff here, the Coordinator, myself, even the CEO sometimes he’s out there helping dropping off the foods for the houses that are isolating and they feel I feel all right. They feel relaxed and happy they in their own house. You know?

MARY G: Yeah, true, true.

WAYNE DONALDSON: Only just the children will get itchy feet and cross to the neighbors or something other than I think this has been around but it's controlling control for you right now. There’s only two houses at the moment, two houses that have the positive testing. And all the other houses have already been, been isolated before they already had the virus in their house. And it's the last first wave I think, just the last two houses, once they finish their weeklong communities and virus come in and finished, you know, unless it spreads.

MARY G: Well, what would you like to tell other Aboriginal communities remote Aboriginal communities in trying to keep people safe from COVID-19 Now that you're experiencing the outbreak, what would you like to say to them?

WAYNE DONALDSON: If you had your vaccinations, two of them and your booster shots, you don't need to be mooloo and be frightened and nervous for the bigger that's coming you know because once you have them you feel all right you feel a little bit better once you get the support from your community leaders and, and the government once everything's in place like the with the NDIA and the Flying Doctor services in order shouldn't be having a problem.

MARY G: For those Aboriginal communities and never have COVID yet and what recommendation would you say to them to watch out for?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Watch the, keep an eye on the movements of people coming and going from the community, just so you know that it might, it might come to your community, it will end up coming to your community one day, the same like our community. We said, we (are a really long way) we are in the middle of everybody, all the communities in the Lands. It won't come here, it is coming, One of the Elders said it will get here one day one day and got here yes, just keep eye on your movement, people coming and going through the community. And once you get that virus there, just try not to panic and just let the people help you who's in charge and the nurses and the doctors, you know, they'll help in anybody serious the flying doctors there, take you to a hospital or something and help you get better quickly.

MARY G: Whaddayow, whaddayow. What are you, Wayne, what are you what are you looking forward to in 2022? Anything that community especially proud of like, what is it in this year that you're looking forward to?

WAYNE DONALDSON: As in?

MARY G: Anything really like, as opposed to getting rid of COVID would be one but what are you looking forward to in 2022?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Oh, at the moment, right now as we speak, we've got our new clinic and new clinic’s being built, getting built here. It's coming in in four pieces too big, big clinic and we’ve got our new clinic house for the new clinic account manager. So that's, that's one thing that's now we're moving from our little (inaudible) clinic over here. So, it’s only just a small little building wouldn't really call it a clinic just three little rooms, but we've got a big million dollar rebuild here there for the community.

And we've got some other programs going in put in this year for the music stuff and other stuff for this. So, make all the community members all happy eh? And the young people we got less worries now like the virus you know, has already been gone and we had no iPhone or anything like that in the 60s so we could look up, look forward to these other things coming into the community and maybe get yourself to come this this way, one day.

MARY G: O darling. I'd love to come down might find Hubby down there (boola boola), I think I'm there. Anything else you'd like to say?

WAYNE DONALDSON: Everybody be safe [inaudible] In your own communities, be safe and just look after your children and look after your Elders, yeah and be safe [inaudible].

MARY G: Yep. No worries. Well, thank you. Mr. Wayne Donaldson, the Chair of Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation for the Tjuntjuntjara community area. Mind you whaddayow thank you, darling. And maybe one day we'll catch up.

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah. Okay.

MARY G: Tell all the country men here.

WAYNE DONALDSON: Yeah. We might get you down here we’ve got some funding for the music program down here.

MARY G: Oh, no worries. Okay Wayne thank you very much.

WAYNE DONALDSON: Pleasure.

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