The federal government has thrown an additional $770,000 to a public relations firm to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates for First Nations communities but Labor says there's been little to show for it.
Indigenous communities are trailing behind in vaccination rates as a major outbreak in NSW threatens remote communities.
Community leaders in Western NSW have warned misinformation, and a lack of official communication to counter it, has fuelled vaccine hesitancy in the region.
The federal government this week handed a $770,000 contract to Brisbane marketing firm, Carbon Media, to target information about COVID-19 vaccines to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The nine-month contract, due to finish in mid-2022, follows an earlier contract for $330,000 handed to the same firm in February this year due to end on December 31.
The Canberra Times asked the Health Department whether the campaign was given criteria and targets to achieve and if it reviewed whether the campaign was delivering on them before issuing a second contract. It did not respond in time for publication.
Labor's Indigenous affairs spokesperson Linda Burney said the government needed to provide answers over why it hadn't vaccinated more First Nations people seven months into the rollout.
"For all the money it has splurged on private contracts, the Morrison-Joyce government needs to explain why it has so little to show for it," Ms Burney said.
"There does not appear to be any substantive First Nations vaccine communications strategy and the government has allowed misinformation to run rampant in remote and regional communities.
"The growing gap of vaccination rates between First Nations people and the general population speaks for itself as to the government's neglect of First Nations people in its vaccine rollout."
About one-fifth of eligible Indigenous Australians had received both vaccine doses while the entire eligible population over 16 stood at 40 per cent as of the beginning of September.
One of those remote communities experiencing a large outbreak while many remain unvaccinated is Wilcannia.
Aboriginal Land Council leader Michael Kennedy, who caught Covid last month, said many of the town's Aboriginal residents were particularly vulnerable with chronic diseases.
Despite being among the first to be eligible for vaccinations earlier this year, hesitancy continued among the community and there had been little support from those in government, he said.
"It seems like they're winging it every day," Mr Kennedy told The Canberra Times last month.
"There should have been a plan put in place a long time ago around these smaller communities.
"We always felt like we've been left behind and alone out here and it's no different now."
The region's Indigenous vaccination rates have fallen far behind the rest of the state.
Data uncovered by The Guardian this week showed just 16 per cent of the Indigenous population in western NSW was fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate for the non-Indigenous population was more than double at 33 per cent.
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