Professors-cum-nurses have helped counter vaccination hesitancy among young Indigenous people in the Walgett district while giving the COVID-19 jab to many willing recipients including elders.
Dean and Head of the University of Newcastle's School of Nursing and Midwifery Professor Amanda Johnson bolstered the ranks of the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service's (WAMS) immunisation team this week.
So too did her colleagues, Wiradjuri woman and Head of the School's Indigenous Portfolio Professor Rhonda Wilson, and Associate Professor Donna Hartz who is a descendent of Kamilaroi people.
The registered nurses' one-week secondment was authorised by the university in response to "cases emerging not just in the Walgett township itself but in the surrounding areas", Professor Johnson said.
Up to 8am on Wednesday there were officially four cases of the virus at Walgett in the past month.
On Friday, Professor Johnson told of vaccinating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at venues ranging from the WAMS clinic to a wool shed.
She said some of the people who lined up for the jab were "frightened" and others "very relieved" to get it.
"So it's both ends of the spectrum really," she said.
Conversation had flowed as the jabs were administered.
"They are people who have got amazing life histories," Professor Johnson said before making special mention of two elders.
"It was just wonderful to see these people in their 80s who saw themselves as role models for others and really wanted to do the the right thing and encourage the younger people who we really need to be vaccinating," Professor Johnson said.
Some of the younger people in the Walgett district were hesitant to be vaccinated, she said.
"But when we have been vaccinating young people we have been encouraging them to tell their families and friends," Professor Johnson said.
The young people getting the jab were praised for being "positive role models" and asked to tell their communities that "it doesn't hurt to have it".
"You know some of them really listened," Professor Johnson said.
"They got on the phone and the next minute you know a group has come."
Professor Johnson said helping out a "very vulnerable population" had been "one of the most satisfying personal nursing experiences" for her.
WAMS and the university are seeking to launch an "On Country" component of its Bachelor of Nursing degree at Walgett in 2023, allowing students to learn and work in the town.
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