Children play with bubbles at the Willmot Community Hub.

Since late 2021 Jesuit Social Services, in partnership with NSW Health, has supported the delivery of over 1,800 COVID-19 vaccine doses in one of New South Wales’ most disadvantaged communities.

Western Sydney Manager, Monique Perusco, says the team’s vision was to create a community-based way of delivering vaccines, with a focus on the needs of Aboriginal people and families.

“Many people in local Aboriginal communities had not been vaccinated before. Some people were highly anxious about vaccines and about communicating with nurses and doctors. We created a culturally safe bridge between the community and health services.”

The clinics focused on getting referrals from partners who were known and trusted by the local Aboriginal community.

“Our partners and community members knew that if someone was booked into our clinic we would be there to provide support. If people weren’t ready on the day, that was okay. We would keep in touch until they felt confident. As more people had positive vaccine experiences, they became powerful advocates bringing aunties and uncles and brothers and sisters.”

In January, Monique and the team were thrilled to get the go-ahead to provide boosters and vaccinate children aged 5-11 years old. “Creating a child-friendly vaccine clinic meant we had to step it up. The waiting time before and after the needle is when children tend to feel scared or anxious. With funding from Blacktown City Council and help from our partners, we transformed our garden space with some distractions, fun and silliness that let children be children.”

Monique says relationships are key to the clinic’s success: “Our way of working is genuinely community-based and relational”.