ADF Vaccination Outreach Teams have administered more than 46,000 COVID-19 vaccines in more than 30 regional and remote NSW communities since late August, making a big difference to vaccination rates.

In the outback opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, an ADF team set up in a sports hall and was formally greeted with a Welcome to Country by Indigenous Elder Aunty Liz Smith, who teaches the Gamillaraay language at local schools.

Standing in the shade of a tall gum tree, she thanked the ADF, NSW Health and NSW Police for their “awesome” help to protect regional, remote and vulnerable communities from COVID-19.

“My family is based in Goodooga and we have been hit quite hard, with 48 positive cases in the one [extended] family,” Aunty Liz said.

“It was really scary for our elders.”

The NSW Commander of Operation COVID-19 Assist Colonel Warwick Young said the pandemic threatened the oldest enduring culture in the world.

“Indigenous Australians are a national treasure. I take great pride in my team’s support to safeguard vulnerable communities,” Colonel Young said. 

NSW Police Superintendent David Waddell, who accompanied Colonel Young to inspect pop-up vaccination clinics in western NSW, said the ADF vaccination teams were effective and efficient.

“The 46,000-plus vaccinations for the ADF is a really big contribution and, from what I have seen and speaking to the police, it’s been really well received by the communities,” Superintendent Waddell said.

Trinette Simms, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Lightning Ridge Local Aboriginal Land Council, said it was fantastic to have the ADF assisting NSW Government agencies.

“Luckily enough, we have a couple of vaccination options in our community.  The facility the ADF is at in Lightning Ridge is large enough for people to feel more comfortable and it’s central,” Ms Simms said.

Lightning Ridge Mayor Ian Woodcock thanked the ADF for supporting the vaccination rollout in western NSW.

“It’s been very good and very welcome and puts people on the right path,” Councillor Woodcock said.

In the central western town of Mudgee, ADF members administered vaccinations in a large hall at St Mathew’s Catholic School. 

Mayor Des Kennedy praised ADF members for lending a hand in his community. 

“It’s been fabulous. Over two weeks, we have got about 25 to 30 per cent of our total eligible population vaccinated by the ADF. We would have been months and months away without their help,” Councillor Kennedy said. 

Dubbo Region Mayor Stephen Lawrence also linked the ADF help to a surge in vaccinations in his community.

The central western city’s showground was repurposed as a vaccination hub.

“The reality is, before the ADF came to our region, our vaccinations were the lowest in the state per region. We were not in a good position at all,” Councillor Lawrence said.

He said ADF assistance with vaccinations pushed the Dubbo region well above state vaccination averages.

“I want to thank all the people involved in the effort on the behalf of the Dubbo community who have done a great service to us, and the people of the region are very grateful,” he said.

More photos are available on the Defence image gallery.