BHP is taking steps to protect and support the remote Aboriginal communities it operates in, on top of its $50 million vital resources fund.
The fund provided more than $3.3 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled community health services to support them through the coronavirus pandemic.
BHP partnered with the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales, Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Australian Capital Territory) as it allocated this funding.
The company has also continued to restrict entry to remote communities to keep the infection rate low.
“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.”
BHP contributed $1.5 million to QAIHC, which has been distributed to the organisation’s 26 member services across Queensland, comprising more than 70 clinics.
The mining giant also halted all face-to-face engagements with Aboriginal people from or connected to remote communities and implemented strict social protocols for BHP employees and contractors operating in regional areas.
“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 also kept travel restrictions at 274 remote Aboriginal communities in place as it lifted some regional border closures.
The government has continued to engage with remote Aboriginal communities to ensure they are provided with ongoing support.
“Our regional travel restrictions have been an important measure in helping limit the spread of COVID-19,” Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook said.
“It’s worked and resulted in low numbers of cases in regional Western Australia.
“We need a little more time before the Commonwealth biosecurity zones can be lifted, as COVID-19 poses a greater health risk to residents of remote Aboriginal communities.”