20 May 2021
Virgin Australia’s chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, recently called for international borders to be reopened “even if some people may die.” The Head of Virgin Australia also said, “if vaccination levels were high enough and vulnerable people were protected, the federal government should take the risk of opening its international borders sooner than June 2022.”
We are appalled by her comments and by her lack of compassion for vulnerable people and most specifically, for our community - people with disability from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
“If we look at the cohorts of people who are most at risk of COVID-19, people with disability from multicultural backgrounds are at the top end. Ms Hrdlicka’s comments are offensive and insensitive. The safety of our community comes first, and it is highly insulting of her to put her business interest before the safety of our community. Opening our international borders for the sake of a business gain makes no sense and would greatly impact the lives of our community”, our CEO Dwayne Cranfield said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also condemned Ms Hrdlicka’s comments – a move appreciated by our CEO and the board at NEDA.
Commenting on the Virgin Australia Head’s comments, the Prime Minister said: “Nine-hundred-and-ten Australians have lost their lives. Every single one of those lives was a terrible tragedy, and it doesn‘t matter how old they were. They were someone‘s mum, someone’s dad, someone’s aunty, someone’s cousin, brother, sister, friend. I find it very difficult to have any part of what was said there.”
Ms Hrdlicka’s comments have shed light on a very important issue that is plaguing Australia at the moment – Australia’s low vaccine coverage. As highlighted by Victorian Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, “Australia’s low vaccine coverage is the greatest risk we face to public health right now.”
This risk is especially high in CALD communities and within the disability community, where vaccination levels remain significantly low. A recent Disability Royal Commission hearing has revealed that “fewer than 1,000 people with disability in Australia’s residential care facilities have been vaccinated, despite authorities saying the rollout would ramp up in late April.”
At NEDA, we are very concerned about the delayed vaccine roll out and the dramatic implications it can have for people with disability, especially those from CALD backgrounds.
With vaccine hesitancy and misinformation becoming a mounting issue in those communities, we call the government and more specifically, the Department of Health to urgently ramp up the vaccination program and treat people with disability from CALD backgrounds as a priority.
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