New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Response to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

17 March, 2020

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Response to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) today put in place further measures to ensure our continued operations while minimising the risk to staff and the community posed by the COVID 19 virus pandemic.

We are encouraging Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) and other Aboriginal organisations to adopt similar strategies and to observe and act on the evolving advice of Government authorities. The health and wellbeing of our workforce and communities is of paramount concern.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, this is primarily an update to the Land Rights Network on NSWALC’s current position. A focus on the health and wellbeing of our people, our community, and our staff is our first priority. We recognise that continued delivery of support to our community is also critical at this time.

The Council will be advocating to Government to ensure that our communities can access assistance wherever they live. Too often our communities who are isolated and remote cannot access basic goods and services and are an afterthought.

What is the NSW Aboriginal Land Council doing to minimise spread of COVID-19?
We are taking an informed approach that is sensible, balanced and respectful of our community and our workforce. We are doing this by ensuring our approach is based on the expert medical advice of Australian Authorities.

We are aiming to consider the health and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 directly and indirectly, as well as the secondary consequences of any response we make. This includes impacts on our workforce and the communities that depend on us and the work that we do to make a positive difference in their lives. We do this by minimising disruption in communication and service to our network.

The spread of COVID-19 across communities will naturally have an impact on where our staff work both for their safety and that of our communities. Some will take time to rest and recover if they become ill, others will work from home as a preventative measure.

We are working to ensure that we have continuity in communication and support for the Land Council Network. However, some changes will be necessary to protect our workforce and our communities.

Specifically, NSWALC will be implementing the following as of today:

  • NSWALC staff will commence working from home on a rotating roster. The decision to reduce office attendance on any given day has been taken to minimise the risk of infection and cross infection within the workplace
  • We are eliminating close/person to person contact (including face to face meetings).
  • We are utilising phone or video conferencing to maintain strong communication with the Land Council Network.
  • We are minimising disruption of service to our key stakeholders and our communities. NSWALC remains fully operational and all our work is continuing as normal.

This decision to have NSWALC staff work from home was taken in response to Government advice to reduce the amount of people gathering in numbers.

Our staff are being asked to notify to our management if they become aware that they have COVID-19, have come into contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection or if their medical professional identifies them as a person at risk due to a pre-existing medical condition. This will enable us to support our staff through any period away from work.

This will not have an impact on service delivery to Local Aboriginal Land Councils and our key stakeholders. You should still continue to access our services via telephone and email.

While good governance and compliance remains very important, some Zone Office visits for risk assessments etc will need to be postponed or alternative information sharing used. You will receive further instructions from your Zone Office directly in the coming days, as needs arise. You will not be disadvantaged if we reschedule for reasons outside your control.

These arrangements will be in place until at least the 24 April 2020.

Advice on LALC Operations
Some meetings of LALC Boards and Members may also be postponed. This is a decision your LALC will need to make based on your assessment of the risk to your members, board members, staff and community. What is very important now is to make plans and talk to your Zone Office staff and/or the Registrar.

LALC Boards and CEO’s are encouraged to consider work practices and implement business continuity plans (plans to manage business continuing in varied or reduced capacity including when offices may need to be shut).

For your information the symptoms of COVID-19:

  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing (severe cases)

More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with other medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), may be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill. We urge caution to protect our communities.

We have advised our staff of the most effective hand washing technique and techniques to use if you need to sneeze or cough in the workplace. We have also supplied our Offices with items such as tissues, hand sanitisers, soap, disposable towels and we are currently in the process of scheduling flu shots for all staff. Your LALC may wish to distribute similar advice. The aim is to limit the potential spread of infection.

We are working with the NSW Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council and NSW Health to ensure we are abreast of symptoms, treatment and recovery. The NSWALC will continue to work with other Aboriginal Peak Organisations and Government Departments to offer practical assistance to combat the spread of COVID-19 through our communities.

Coronavirus health guidelines provided by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
The most important thing for everyone to remember is to maintain hygiene by:

  • Washing your hands
  • Avoiding shaking hands with people who may be sick
  • Staying at a distance of 1.5m away from people who are sick
  • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow
  • Don’t go to crowded places if you’re sick
  • If you get sick, go to your health clinic

We expect our measures may need to change as we learn more and receive additional advice from Australian medical Authorities. Here is a link to the current advice;

To care for others, we must stay healthy ourselves. So please remember to follow the health guidelines above.

Councillor Anne Dennis
Chairperson NSWALC

James Christian, PSM

The World Health Organization and NSW Health has issued the following guides on hand hygiene and cough ettiquette. They can be downloaded by clicking on the following images below:


We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.