Houston, we have a big problem

“Speaking to many Yolngu people along the north-east Arnhem Land coast this morning, there is a huge amount of confusion around the Omicron variant of Covid-19,” says Richard Trudgen, a dedicated and concerned community educator with Why Warriors.

The first person in the community of Galiwin’ku, on Elcho Island, to test positive to Covid-19, was the health service manager. As a result, many Yolngu people in the community believe that “it must be the vaccine that has opened the door to this variant, or else why would she be the first to get it?”

There is also confusion around why people need to get booster shots so quickly after their first and second injections. They are asking, “why has it gone from one to three injections? Are they no good?”

Some Yolngu people who have not been vaccinated now believe that they are in a better position to fight the virus because to them, it seems the vaccine has made people more vulnerable to the virus.

This confusion can be corrected with good quality, evidence-based information in Yolngu Matha language. Such as the Why Warriors education program that ran for 2 weeks in October, combining video resources in their own language with vital in-person community education. This program empowered people to understand Covid-19 and its variants, and the reasons for the government mandates, as well as how the virus will affect them, allowing them to make their own decisions around their health.

Despite great success in a short time, funding to roll out more education across remote communities in Arnhem Land has ceased. The Why Warriors team have been forced to complete one on one sessions over the phone instead.

In addition, it is also proving impossible to get information on how best to help Yolngu people (demanded by Yolngu themselves) to higher-ups who are making the decisions about who needs education and how it should be delivered. Many lives are at stake as a result.  Surely investing in these evidence-based education programs is the way forward, not just during the pandemic, but in every area of health where confusion remains also.


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For further information, contact the Why Warriors office: 08 8987 1664, or Richard Trudgen directly on 0400 880 954 or via richard.trudgen@whywarriors.com.au.

Why Warriors’ Founder and Director, Richard Trudgen, is a community educator and author who has lived and worked with Yolŋu people in Arnhem Land for 40 years, learning their language and customs. Richard authored the cross-cultural book, Why Warriors Lie Down and Die, and works passionately and tirelessly together with his local Yolŋu community to increase mutual understanding and respect between Balanda and Yolŋu. To learn more, volunteer, or donate to continuing research and education programs, please visit www.whywarriors.com.au.