Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are protecting themselves in a locally-led approach by First Nations organisation Children’s Ground with backing from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in Australia.

The six-month project builds on a “Keep Our Elders Safe” strategy and youth leadership developed by community members in Central Australia and the Top End in 2020. Children’s Ground will support local communities to respond to COVID-19 “by community, for community” with targeted health promotion and social media campaigns designed and delivered by local people. Chair of Children’s Ground, William Tilmouth, said: “The strength to our work is our people – they are the ones who are on the ground suffering the most disadvantage with the greatest risk and are the most exposed. We are so grateful for this donation as it enables our local community workers, old and young, to ensure their families are as safe as they can be.”

The organisation’s Chief Executive Jane Vadiveloo said the funding from Johnson & Johnson would allow Children’s Ground to dedicate resources to COVID health planning, education, response and communications.

“We all know that the risks of COVID lie ahead of us. It is critical that this work is tailored to the needs, languages, cultures and realities of local people. Success requires people to feel empowered and informed as we all work together to drive vaccination rates up,” she said.

“Our Elders know the risks that they face, and the young leaders are wanting to lead this response. This funding will empower local people working with health specialists to respond to COVID-19 during this vulnerable period over the next 6 months. Communities want to be ahead of that risk and protect especially the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.”

Children’s Ground recognises the important leadership of the Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisations (ACCHOs) in response to COVID-19. The work of Children’s Ground’s Health Promotion Team will complement this leadership. Important work is happening on the ground with key collaborations between Aboriginal Health Organisations, N.T. Health and Menzies School of Health and Children’s Ground.

“Together we are working to promote vaccination and to correct dangerous misinformation currently being spread among vulnerable communities. We will continue to work in partnership with key organisations to coordinate efforts and ensure that we are reaching as many people as possible.”

Johnson & Johnson has been supporting the integrated, community-led work of Children’s Ground for 6 years, and has identified Children’s Ground as a key partner to ensure culturally relevant and appropriate messaging is reaching the most vulnerable communities.

Sue Martin, Managing Director for Johnson & Johnson Medical Australia and New Zealand and Executive Sponsor for J&J’s community work said, “We are pleased to support Children’s Ground in their community response to COVID-19. The spirit of our Credo guides us to ensure people living in vulnerable communities have better access to healthcare that not only leads to healthier lives, but also helps them navigate through times of crisis. The impact of COVID-19 makes that commitment especially relevant. Our six-year partnership with Children’s Ground has already shown great strides in bridging the health gap and supporting this program will help ensure that they don’t lose pace in these challenging times.”

The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in Australia is continuing its commitment to health equity to First Nations communities, addressing the most pressing needs in communities and the impact of COVID more broadly for Aboriginal communities.