During this difficult period, the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage and practices, language and kinships ties must be upheld. Physical distancing and restrictions on gatherings may, however, have a greater significance for First Nations people given the cultural importance of family and community connectedness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
As well as being more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to, in general, a higher rate of chronic illness, such precautionary measures may have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Limitations on contact with family in closed environments and for children in out of home care may further exacerbate stress and anxiety, as may continuing disruptions in access to culturally appropriate legal and therapeutic services due to COVID-19.
Policing of public health directions must also ensure compliance checks, move-on directions, cautions and infringement notices do not disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who, for various reasons, may spend more time in public spaces than other groups.