Caring for the community - Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation

If the onset of the pandemic and the past tumultuous two and a half years has taught us anything, it is the value of communities working together to improve the protection and wellbeing of those more vulnerable than ourselves.

This is the philosophy underpinning the co-designed COVID management plan implemented between large mining groups BHP, Rio Tinto and the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) to ensure the ongoing protection of the Traditional Owner groups in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Tasked with providing community support and assistance with public health care as part of their duty of care, the corporation has implemented a robust Covid screening program for team members in line with government guidance and best practice advice from leading medical experts.

The objective of the screening program is to keep the local communities safe by ensuring they are not put at additional risk of Covid infection. Only select employees and contractors can visit vulnerable persons – those in which underlying health challenges are prevalent, or those in remote areas where health care infrastructure is not strong – and strict protocols ensure that every risk mitigation measure is followed.

The 24 YAC team members conduct regular Covid testing with very highly sensitive rapid antigen tests provided by the mines and utilise the Self Check app and Test Tracker system developed by Australian MedTech company Gardian, to provide a real time digital verification and result reporting via the secure platform.

In addition to reliably monitoring SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates and severity, regular testing in conjunction with a system that enables real-time verification and reporting are key for the early identification of infectious COVID-19 cases, effectively allowing for their prompt isolation to protect other employees and the broader community.

Speaking of the innovative digital solution, Tania Saggers-Clarke, acting CEO of the Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation said: “The Gardian ‘test, track and trace’ system enables team members to perform a rapid antigen test and report the result immediately, even if they are travelling or operating remotely. Test results are centralised, and the easy-to-navigate dashboard provides a great resource by which to manage staff and a convenient overview of covid safety management plan compliance.

“There have been a high number of Covid cases in the community,” said Saggers-Clarke, “primarily among the children in schools. We are confident however, that due to the Gardian testing program, our interventions and interactions with the community have not contributed to any COVID transmission.

“In fact, the program has been so beneficial that even though most of the COVID restrictions have been lifted nationally, we have opted to continue the preventative testing program.

When asked about any challenges with the software solution, Saggers-Clarke said: “Obviously being as remote as we are we have occasionally had connectivity issues, but the support offered by the Gardian customer care team has been great.

“We are grateful to all the companies that are working collaboratively with the Yinhawangka people and providing YAC with the necessary support to enable us to continue to be of service.”

Click here to learn more about Gardian's Covid-free approach.