U21 Champions in the time of COVID-19: Professor James Ward University of Queensland

Professor James Ward - University of Queensland

Professor James Ward’s commitment to protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is somewhat outlined in the following, he has been a key advisor to the Australian Government and other key agencies on preparedness response and recovery phases to prevent a catastrophe occurring in Indigenous communities nationally.

James is a member of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) and a member of the COVID-19 Working Committee. This committee met from the outset every day of the week, then five days then currently three days per week to refine, support and target the Australian response. CDNA reports directly to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee who then provides advice to the National Cabinet. This committee has a standing agenda item on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues and as one of two advisors and the only Aboriginal Advisor he has ensured Indigenous issues are paramount and that systems are in place to prevent and respond should it be required in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities. James is also a member of the CDNA COVID-19 Series of National Guidelines (SONG) Working Group whose task is to develop refine and update the SONG as new evidence emerges. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Management Plan has had several updates as we have moved through the pandemic. As a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Taskforce on COVID-19 which was established on his insistence in late February 2020. This Taskforce meets to discuss the development of responses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and involves the input of around 35 people from both government and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations nationally. This allowed the group to provide a unified and united Aboriginal voice directly to the Chief Medical Officer. James's leadership has contributed to the effective COVID-19 preparedness phase and enabled response plans to be developed nationally. Still today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have diagnosis rates 5 times lower than the rest of Australia, this is an outstanding result and of course, this is not only the work of Prof Ward but all of his colleagues working on the forefront of the response. In all major pandemics of recent times, Aboriginal people have fared much worse in relation to diagnosis, hospitalisations and mortality outcomes. Thus far we have avoided this and I am certain that James' contribution to COVID-19 response is part of the reason.

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