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Indigenous Rappers Warn Australians of COVID-19 Threat

FILE - An Aboriginal dance troupe performs at Australia Day celebrations in Sydney, Australia, Jan. 26, 2020. Rap music has been employed as part of a new awareness campaign to educate Australia's Indigenous about the coronavirus.

Indigenous rappers have been brought in to help protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable people from COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, there's been a concerted effort to protect remote Aboriginal communities, which already have high rates of heart, liver and respiratory diseases, as well as diabetes and cancer, from the coronavirus. However, 80% of Indigenous Australians live in towns and cities, and measures to prevent the spread of infection have been boosted by a new awareness campaign.

“It is our job, young mob. You got this, little sis. Keep it up,” are just some of the lyrics of the song “One Point Five.” It is about safe social distancing at 1½ meters, and it’s a message for Australia’s urban Aboriginal communities.

It was co-written by Mi-Kaisha Masella, a young Indigenous singer from Sydney.

“For us it was about creating a song that would encourage community to continue to stay COVID-safe and also bring a little bit of fun and pride back into isolation,” Masella said.

Melbourne remains under a strict lockdown after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. The situation in Australia’s second-biggest city is gradually improving and, so far, Indigenous groups have avoided large numbers of infections.

Caroline Kell, an Aboriginal health official, says communities have worked hard to keep safe.

“We are not seeing a great amount of transmission in and between families unlike the broader population, so that means that people are self-isolating and quarantining effectively and stopping the spread in between families, which is a really positive thing considering a lot of our community do live in pretty overcrowded and, sort of, transient accommodation,” Kell said.

Public health campaigns are also helping Indigenous Australians in remote settlements, who already suffer high rates of chronic disease in areas with limited medical facilities, cope with the mental stress of the pandemic. A recent study by the University of Western Australia found the coronavirus had put many First Nation people at risk of severe psychological distress.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples make up about 3% of the national population.