The various benefits of clean clothing for communities in lock-down were brought into focus at a clothing donation event in Barunga yesterday.
Indigenous women from the community of Barunga were provided with donated clothing in response to lockdowns barring community members from entering Katherine for supplies.
The joint Australian Investments Group and Givit program looked beyond coronavirus to the negative impacts communities under lockdown may face over the coming months.
"The coronavirus sticks like glue to clothing, so for people living with 18 people in one house if you can't wash or replace your clothes the viral risk increases exponentially," AIG Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith said.
"But beyond that, we're looking at the impacts on other existing physical and mental health issues as people can't get to town to fill their needs independently.
"Clean clothes and bed linen are an essential element - we know 7/10 children in communities get scabies, and if you scratch the wound then it can lead to an incurable rheumatic heart disorder," he said.
AIG is also continuing its Remote Laundries Project providing laundry supplies and services to Barunga during the lock-down, and believes the dignity and hygiene that service provides is more important now than ever.
Mr Smith said while the pressure on social services right now is immense, organisations needed to keep looking at the broad needs of the communities as they plausibly face more than a year locked down.
"There's really three areas of impact here - economic, physical health and mental health," he said.
"When you have clean or new clothes to wear down to the shops you feel good. School attendance goes up with clean clothes because kids are bullied for the way they smell at school.
"Having pride and dignity in communities is essential to closing the gap, which we still haven't succeeded in doing and could worsen under this pandemic," Mr Smith said.
AIG Business Coordinator Fiona Ainsworth said that while the service had to strictly adhere to health guidelines, it was still a feel-good occasion during a difficult time for Barunga.
"Usually we would have a big event and get the children performing, have the police involved, but we couldn't do that this time with the social distancing guidelines in place," she said.
"This time we had to go house-by-house, never having more than six women at a time in the area.
"It is unfortunate, but it was still a great occasion for the ladies to get out and about, and also look and feel good over the coming period," Ms Ainsworth said.
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