BHP has stressed that the vigilant protection of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities from COVID-19 should continue as restrictions begin to ease in Australia.
The mining giant has supported the Indigenous community through the pandemic, pledging $3.3 million for Aboriginal businesses off the back of its $50 million vital resources fund.
Indigenous Australians have attributed to less than one per cent of all Australians infected with COVID-19, showing that the precautions taken have been successful.
BHP has restricted entry to remote communities in an effort to minimise the risk of infection in remote communities.
BHP has teamed up with a number of services to help protect indigenous communities, including Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC); Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales; Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Australian Capital Territory).
“BHP is determined to play its part in the collective response to COVID-19 and a critical area is how we support our regional and remote Aboriginal communities,” BHP chief external affairs officer Geoff Healy said.
“We know there is no room for complacency. BHP will keep working hard to aid local health and community services and through our own operations reduce the risk of transmission and support jobs and local businesses across the country.”
The Western Australian Government is also committed to keep travel restrictions on 274 Aboriginal communities despite regional borders reopening to further reduce the chance of infection.
“The real risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is when restrictions are relaxed and remote communities are exposed to the virus from visitors,” QAIHC general manager – policy & research Angela Young said.
“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is considered vulnerable because our people generally experience an earlier onset of chronic disease and are more likely to be impacted by the social determinants of health, such as inadequate housing, overcrowding, lower income and unemployment.”
According to the national Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation chief executive Pat Turner, the mining industry has been instrumental in providing a strong response towards preventing infection among Indigenous communities.
“The mining industry has been effective in providing isolation facilities, especially in the Kimberley, for people who have COVID-19 symptoms and can’t self-isolate in their home,” she said.
“BHP has been extraordinarily generous by funding over $3.3 million direct to our member affiliates. They are on the front foot and worked with us early to get supplies and services where we needed them most. The funding helped us buy iPads for telehealth services and also keeping kids engaged and connected with school.”
Fortescue Metals Group, another major player in Australia’s mining industry, has also pledged its support toward Aboriginal businesses who are on the road to recovery from COVID-19.
A total of $20 million in financial has been provided by Fortescue to nine of its Aboriginal contractors.
“At Fortescue, we believe that strong, sustainable Aboriginal businesses are the key to creating employment and economic opportunities for business owners, their families and communities,” the company’s chief financial officer Ian Wells said.