Wally Guivarra is the Quality and Compliance Manager at Mookai Rosie Bi-Bayan in Edmonton, a suburb in Cairns. The culturally sensitive accommodation, health education, and pregnancy support service improves the health status and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly women and children through Far North Queensland, Western Queensland and the Torres Straits.
In recent times, Wally says one of the biggest obstacles the organisation faced was women not being able to return home due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We have 20 plus women from Cape York Indigenous communities,” he explains.
“Our clients began developing anxiety because they could not return home to their communities. Initially we were told it was indefinite – the anxiety was almost palpable. That was something our wellbeing team dealt with. We needed to make sure we were on top of that.”
To ensure their clients mental health would not suffer, they needed to ensure the women are preoccupied with activities. However, with restrictions on travel and only essential services being open, they had to think outside of the box.
“We began activities, so the women were making our masks, blankets and pillow sets,” he explains.
In the process, the organisation overcame another challenge – they began to make their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other materials they needed.
Additionally, the service made different gifts for the women in isolation.
“Our clients couldn’t go to the shops all the time, so we got them treats. Isolation treatments – they really liked that too,” Wally explains.
“We even provided an outdoor yarning circle with fire pit.”
Throughout COVID-19, the service has been listening to their clients every step of the way, ensuring they were responding to their needs as a priority.
“It’s been client-driven, which has been really good,” he says.
Overall, Wally says COVID-19 has not interrupted their service too much.
“All in all, it was only minor hiccups. We used creativity to continue services. We have just had to deliver services in different ways.”