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JT Academy enlisted to promote wellbeing in remote Indigenous communities

Aurukun resident Warren Kawangka gets the thumbs up from rugby league legend and former Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston after being vaccinated

12 November 2021

Rugby league great Johnathan Thurston is promoting health and wellbeing for kids and their families during a trip to four Cape York and Central Queensland Indigenous communities this month.

Mr Thurston already has visited Hope Vale on Cape York and is visiting Woorabinda in Central Queensland today (12 Nov).

He will be visiting Aurukun on 15 November and Bamaga on 18 November.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Beverley Hamerton said the Queensland Government, through Queensland Health, had entered into an agreement with the Johnathan Thurston Academy to undertake the community visits.

Mr Thurston is the Managing Director of the Academy.

“During his visit to Aurukun and Bamaga, as he did in Hope Vale and Woorabinda, he will host sessions of his signature JTBelieve program, meet with local community leaders and visit our vaccination clinics to show support of the state-wide vaccination program,’’ Ms Hamerton said.

“Johnathan is highly respected in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and he has important messages to deliver in relation to First Nations people being inspired to believe in themselves and make positive decisions for their families’ wellbeing.

“The JTBelieve sessions also will provide a platform for a Q&A with well-known Far North Queensland Indigenous doctor Mark Wenitong and Indigenous nurse Kelly Trudgen to deliver information individuals may seeking about the vaccine and vaccination.

“Ms Trudgen, who is a Nurse Unit Manager at Redcliffe Hospital, will be able to speak to her lived experience of contracting coronavirus while working as nurse in a hospital in the United Kingdom.’’

Mr Thurston said he was is looking forward to visiting Bamaga and Aurukun and delivering the academy’s JTBelieve workshops designed to inspire, educate and, hopefully, spark open conversations around mental health and wellbeing.

“Since we started the academy and in everything we do, we’ve always worked towards building confidence, courage and self-belief,” Mr Thurston said.

“Our JTBelieve workshops are always well received and always do just that – build confidence, courage and self-belief.

“We’ve delivered our successful workshop now in a number of locations, such as Quilpie, Yarrabah, Kowanyama and Thursday Island and I’m grateful we can now include the communities of Aurukun, Hope Vale, Bamaga and Woorabinda to that growing list.

“Our JTBelieve workshop speaks directly to our core values and engages not just with the school children, but their families and larger community.

“Now, more than ever, we need to speak about these topics while also having open conversations around mental health and wellbeing.

“We thank Queensland Health for sponsoring this tour and working with us to be able to deliver this vital program to our remote communities.”

Queensland Chief Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officer Haylene Grogan said while it was great COVID–19 so far had been kept out of First Nations communities, there was no room for complacency.

“The reality is that once state borders reopen, it won’t be a question of if but when coronavirus cases start appearing in our communities,’’ Ms Grogan said.

“So, if you have been sitting on the fence, thinking COVID–19 hasn’t affected you, please think again, get informed and make the choice to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself, your family and your community.

“If you choose not to be vaccinated, the risks to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community will increase substantially, especially once national and international borders start to open from around Christmas and New Year onwards.

“In many cases, we are aware that community hesitancy is the result of the various rumours and social media misinformation that is currently circulating in relation to the COVID–19 vaccines and the vaccination program.

“I urge community members to ignore rumour and innuendo and to seek out trusted, authoritative sources for their information.

“If you’ve heard something about vaccination that concerns you, or want more information, please talk to your doctor, visit your local primary healthcare centre, or talk to our vaccination teams when we’re in your community.’’

Ms Hamerton said everyone aged 12 years and over was eligible to be vaccinated, including those who were pregnant, and all health service outreach clinics accepted walk-ins.

“Having the vaccine is your choice. It's safe, free and remains the best way to protect yourself, your family, and our community from serious illness,’’ she said.

“Combined with COVID-safe behaviours like social distancing, vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic and give us the best chance of keeping our communities and businesses open and doing more of the things we enjoy.’’

NOTE: percentages quoted above relate to vaccinations delivered by the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service only and do not include vaccinations delivered separately through other providers and external agencies. As a result, overall total regional vaccination rates will likely be higher.

PHOTO CAPTION: Aurukun resident Warren Kawangka gets the thumbs up from rugby league legend and former Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston after being vaccinated.

Last updated: 12 November 2021