Indigenous health in the Port Augusta region of South Australia has received a welcome shot in the arm thanks to some help from the 3rd Health Support Battalion (3HSB).

Medical personnel from the battalion partnered with the Pika Wiya Aboriginal Health Corporation’s COVID-19 vaccine team to provide administrative assistance to support the vaccine rollout to more than 100 Indigenous Australians.  

Over a few days in August and September, 3HSB deployed small teams of nursing officers, environmental health technicians and a general service officer to the town as part of the battalion’s community engagement program.

The teams also conducted health assessments and provided minor wound care for community members.

The activities also allowed 3HSB staff to encourage community members, who may have been struggling to engage with the current health delivery model, to attend the Pika Wiya mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics. 

3HSB Indigenous liaison officer Captain Nathan Freeman has now been to Port Augusta on five occasions to support the Pika Wiya clinic in delivering vaccinations.  

“As a health support battalion, we’re always on the lookout for ways we can provide health support both in the Army, and in the community,” Captain Freeman said.

“Throughout the activities in Port Augusta, the outreach team provided support to the Pika Wiya pop-up vaccination clinics in Davenport and at the Stepping Stones Day Centre.

“By engaging with the community, helping to get the message out, and providing administrative assistance, we enabled the clinics to focus on vaccination delivery and care to the community.” 

With 3HSB’s support and assistance directing the flow of vaccinations, more than 100 Indigenous community members in Port Augusta have been fully vaccinated, including local residents and transient community members from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankuntjatjara lands.

Rebecca Simpson, the lead for the Pika Wiya vaccination effort, said it was made possible thanks to the support, resources and friendships provided by 3HSB staff. 

“The team assisted by using a sensitive and compassionate approach to encouraging Indigenous Australians, who are doing it tough, to roll up their sleeves to protect themselves and their mob,” Ms Simpson said.

“They provided huge assistance with promoting the clinics, and just their presence alone caused interest and curiosity.”

But it wasn’t just the team in the community, or their uniforms that drew attention.

“The Army ambulance was a huge hit – everyone knew they were in town, and many a selfie was taken in front of the ambulance,” Ms Simpson said.

Following the success and impact of the community engagement activities in Port Augusta, 3HSB will look to continue their relationship with the Indigenous community into next year. 

You can see more of the great work 3HSB does by following them on Facebook: 3rd Health Support Battalion – Australian Army.