The Shadow Indigenous Australians Minister has paid tribute to an Indigenous Dubbo man who died from COVID-19, to highlight the failures of the government's vaccination rollout across western NSW.
Ahead of question time in parliament on Tuesday, Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services gave a 90-second speech in honour of Clive Raymond Toomey, who passed away at the age of 43, after contracting COVID-19 in October.
She said she had met with the Indigenous man's family in Dubbo last week, and explained they had been let down by the government during the COVID outbreak in regional NSW.
"Clive's family had to fight to be able to see their husband and father in hospital for a last time, and to say goodbye after he passed," she said.
"This government promised Indigenous people would be vaccinated first, but that did not happen.
"Clive was unvaccinated, but not by choice. The vaccines his community were to have were diverted away.
"Clive's family are strong. Theytook every step they could to get vaccinated."
From the start of the pandemic, Aboriginal people were identified as "a clearly defined vulnerable community".
These vulnerabilities stem from both chronic health conditions suffered by Aboriginal people and under-resourced health services in regional and remote areas.
However, at the height of the COVID outbreak in August Indigenous vaccination rates across the western region were low, with the NSW government "redistributing" 40,000 Pfizer vaccinations intended for regional NSW to year 12 students in hotspots in southwest Sydney.
In a matter of days, eight western NSW communities were then forced into a snap lockdown, when a COVID-positive inmate from Bathurst Correctional Centre returned to Walgett - a community with a high Indigenous population.
Since November 22, the Dubbo Regional Local Government Area, along with Narromine and Mid-Western Regional have reached a 95 per cent first and second dose vaccination rate.
Holding up a mask given to her by Mr Toomey's family with his initials on it, she declared to wear in parliament for the rest of the week.
"He was the dearly loved husband of Anna, a much-loved father of Clive, Monique, Jasmin and Lachlan - and a grandfather," she said.
"Goodbye, Clive, a highly respected man in the western part of NSW," she concluded.