This period is a time we must come together as First Nations people... Professor Gracelyn Smallwood.

7th May 2020

Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, a proud Birrigubba, Kalkadoon, Southsea woman and Elder, speaks with Caama’s Josef Egger on her concerns COVID-19 will have on the wider Aboriginal community.

Professor Smallwood a veteran Human Rights advocate for First Nations people, is coming into her 50th year as a registered nurse and midwife, working as a cross-cultural educator at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, QLD, where she dedicates her time and effort mentoring at the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service.

As a senior Elder who is a diabetic, Professor Smallwood is very concerned with the potential threat COVID-19 will have on her and other people also at high-risk. “If it gets into our communities and hits the high-risk groups, whether it be urban, rural, remote, it can spread rapidly.” – states Professor Smallwood.

Although Australia’s response to COVID-19 has been very successful in comparison to other countries around the world, Professor Smallwood states -, "We still have only closed 2 KPI's… [Closing the] Gap, at a 7 target.”

Professor Smallwood states that COVID-19's impact would be catastrophic if it entered Aboriginal communities. First Nations people still today have poor social determinants of health, very high unemployment, dreadful poverty, and a lot of are still living well below the standards that they should be.

“Coronavirus and isolation has caused a lot of mental health issues. We already have the highest First Nations suicide rates in the world and terrible diseases. We shouldn’t have that, being a wealthy country.” States Professor Smallwood.

Professor Smallwood is adamant that this period is a time we must come together as First Nations people, looking at different ways we can create better outcomes in Closing the Gap. Professor Smallwood believes the key lies within educating our youth, about our history, knowledge, and struggle.

Listen to the full interview with Professor Smallwood here :