Early this month, NSW Health, police and ADF personnel travelled to a tiny Aboriginal community two-and-a-half hours’ drive inland from Byron Bay, northern NSW, to complete a lifesaving mission.
They set up a pop-up vaccination clinic on a football field at Malabugilmah, where eligible men, women and children received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
ADF members helped set up tents and tables, unpacked equipment, sanitised surfaces and took patients’ temperatures and personal details.
Able Seaman Nigel Mathews, of Joint Task Group 629, said the ADF personnel were there to help wherever they were needed by NSW Health and police.
“It’s great to be a cog in a wheel with other agencies doing awesome things,” Able Seaman Mathews said.
Community leader Terrence Robinson welcomed the team to Bundjalung land and praised the combined vaccination outreach effort.
“I appreciate all your hard work. I don’t know what we would do without you,” Mr Robinson said.
“I hope we have a good day today and get all these needles done.”
The NSW Commander of Operation COVID-19 Assist, Colonel Warwick Young, thanked Mr Robinson for the heartfelt Welcome to Country and said protecting vulnerable Indigenous communities was a high priority.
“This protection is so important. The work NSW agencies are doing, supported by the ADF, makes me very proud to be an Australian,” Colonel Young said.
“Vaccinations have saved thousands of lives.”
Malabugilmah means ‘Do the right thing’ in the local Waalubal dialect.
Mr Robinson did the right thing by his community when he went door-to-door to invite the village’s nine families to the pop-up clinic.
“We are all related,” said Latia Williams, who works at Baryulgal School as a support officer and went to the clinic for her second jab to stay safe and keep working.
“We would have lost jobs. I had to have to have it done by October 25,” she said.
Malabugilmah Elder Samantha Robinson had her second shot to keep “safe and healthy”.
“I thank you all for helping out,” she said.
While the vaccinations were administered in a row of tents decorated with Indigenous art, a friendly football game between locals and visitors took place on the football grounds.
Colonel Young and NSW Police Force Acting Inspector Anthony Smith, co-captains of the visiting side, kicked the ball high and far to test Malabugilmah’s fastest and most promising fullbacks.
“It’s exciting for the kids,” Ms Williams said.
More photos can be viewed on the Defence image gallery.