“This will not only protect you and your family, but the whole community.” This is John Moriarty’s message to Indigenous Australians about the COVID-19 vaccine.

John Moriarty AM is a proud Yanyuwa Saltwater man, and a member of the stolen generations. John has worked hard to get where he is today, from being removed from his mother’s care at the age of four, to becoming the first recognised Indigenous Australian chosen for a national football team and to graduate from university in South Australia.  

In that time, he has advocated passionately for Indigenous rights, co-founded Balarinji with Ros Moriarty, the studio which designed the famous Qantas-Balarinji Flying Art series of aircrafts and co-founded the Moriarty Foundation – UNICEF Australia’s local partner for Indigenous early childhood education. 

Today, as the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Moriarty Foundation, John helps Indigenous communities and families to unlock their children’s potential and create transformational change. 

"My advice to our Aboriginal people is:  
please go and get your vaccinations.
For John, it is important to keep his community healthy and safe from COVID-19, so they can stay connected and pass on their culture to future generations. 

“I did get my vaccinations, both levels. I just want us to be protected,” says John. 

“My advice to our Aboriginal people is: please go and get your vaccinations. It’ll save you, and particularly the older people, because it will save our traditional culture.” 

“They can teach the generations below them to go on and practice our culture that's many thousands of years old.” 
John Moriarty with Shadeene Evans, a proud Marra woman and John Moriarty Football (JMF) scholarship receiver. © Moriarty Foundation

Aboriginal people are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they have higher rates of underlying health conditions, increased barriers to health care, and they often live in crowded or remote communities, making it more difficult to self-isolate.  

“You can just imagine how COVID, getting to one person in that crowded community house, could be passed on very rapidly amongst the others,” says John. “This would be quite devastating for our people.” 

We have seen this play out, with tragic consequences, in remote communities like Wilcannia, where more than 60 per cent of the population is Aboriginal, and one in six people has been infected with the highly contagious Delta variant. 

The latest data from October 2021 suggests that fewer than one in three Indigenous Australians are fully vaccinated. The June outbreak of Delta in New South Wales spread quickly to rural communities and has put pressure on Aboriginal health centres and families. 

With vaccination rates increasing daily, rural outreach teams are going door to door and enlisting the help of Indigenous leaders to spread the word. 

John has made vaccination a priority at Moriarty Foundation and its programs, such as Indi Kindi, which are located in remote communities in the Northern Territory. 

“This is one way that the Elders, particularly in those organisations who have lots of authority in the Aboriginal communities, can pass on that type of information that will benefit future generations,” he says.  
Left, Deandra at work as an Indi Kindi educator, and right, Indi Kindi educator Amanda helps children enjoy a healthy snack of fresh fruit on Country in Borroloola. © Moriarty Foundation/Lister and Moriarty Foundation/Quilliam

John believes it is the responsibility of every Indigenous Elder and leader to help build trust and confidence in the vaccine, and protect their own communities. Deandra, an Indi Kindi educator in the Northern Territory is one of these leaders.  

“Deandra’s a good model for our program, and she's connected with all the mothers, families and kids,” says John.  

“She has a tremendous amount of influence, and we have people in other communities like that where we’re working. It's very important that we connect with people like Deandra.” 

Now fully vaccinated, Deandra feels confident to go to work and out into the community. “I can go out when I need to for a break or food or shopping, but I know I’ll be safe because I have the vaccine,” she says.  

Let’s keep our children, communities and culture safe. Do your part and get vaccinated today.  

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UNICEF Australia would like to acknowledge this country's First Nations peoples and Traditional Owners and recognise their continuing connection to land and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

We acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional custodians of this place we now call Sydney where our office sits.