Curtin University experts share Australia’s responses to COVID-19 with Sarawak government officials

Miri – 23 April 2021 – Two experts from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University in Perth gave insights into Australia’s public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to an audience of over 100 in Sarawak during a two-hour ‘COVID-19 Talk by Curtin Experts’ webinar yesterday.

The webinar, initiated by Sarawak Minister of Transport Datuk Lee Kim Shin to bring together Curtin and those in the state government involved in managing the COVID-19 pandemic together for dialogue and knowledge sharing, was jointly organised by Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) and the Miri Division Disaster Management Committee (MDDMC) in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Sciences.

In addition to being the minister in charge of the Miri Division Disaster Management Committee (MDDMC), Datuk Lee is the chair of Curtin Malaysia’s Management Committee.

Among the government officials attending were Minister of Local Government and Housing Professor Dato Sri Dr. Sim Kui Hian and Deputy State Secretary Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik. Dr. Sim, who is a member of the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), is the minister overseeing public health matters in Sarawak, while Datuk Ik Pahon is the Deputy Chairman of the SDMC.

Also in attendance were Acting Resident of Miri, Abdul Aziz Bin Mohd. Yusuf, who is the chairman of the MDDMC, as well as the residents of the other 11 divisions in Sarawak, heads and representatives of various government organisations, and over 20 hospital directors, doctors and public health officials.

Senior management staff of Curtin Malaysia and representatives of non-governmental organisations such as the Malaysian Red Crescent Society and Miri Kidney Dialysis Centre were also present.

The two Australian experts were Professor Jaya Dantas, Dean International in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor in the Curtin School of Population Health, who spoke about ‘Australia’s Public Health Responses and Responding to Vulnerable Communities during COVID-19’ and Associate Professor Nick Golding, an associate professor in the Curtin School of Population Health, who spoke about ‘Modelling Used to Guide Australia’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic’.

Professor Dantas outlined some of the key public health responses carried out in Australia such as the TTT approach (testing, tracking and tracing) and the assistance given to community organisations and international students in the COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, Associate Professor Golding elaborated on the various types of modelling used by the Australian authorities to assess the COVID-19 situation in the country and plan appropriate responses, particularly in the states of Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania which were the hardest hit.

Professor Dantas has worked for 34 years in India, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Timor Leste and Australia and won an Australian National Award for University Teaching in 2010. Her credentials include being a Fellow of the Public Health Association of Australia and delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations.

At the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University, Professor Dantas assists the Pro-Vice Chancellor in leading its global positioning portfolio and expanding the university’s ‘One Curtin’ strategy and growing international courses and collaborations.

She leads a research programme in refugee and migrant health with a focus on the social determinants of health, mental health and health equity. Her work is with communities and draws on multidisciplinary approaches to inform health and social policy.

Associate Professor Golding is an infectious disease modeller with particular experience in quantifying the risks posed by new and emerging diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has developed a range of models to track COVID-19 transmission potential over time in Australia, drawing on population mobility data, behavioural surveys, and health surveillance systems. This model has been used extensively by the Australian government throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to assess outbreak risk and the need for mobility restrictions.

In his welcoming remarks, Datuk Lee commented that Curtin’s faculty of Health Sciences is renowned for its expertise in public health and the management of infectious diseases and it was hoped that the insights provided by the two experts would be of help to the authorities in Sarawak in planning their own responses to the pandemic.

He thanked all those attending for their support, saying that the audience of 109 including hospital directors, doctors and other frontliners demonstrated a keen interest to have a better understanding of some of the science behind the responses adopted by Australia and other countries towards COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Dr.Sim, in his address, remarked that Curtin has an established reputation as a leading education provider and research university and through Curtin Malaysia, is playing a crucial role in the development of Sarawak and the advancement of its communities.

Moderating the webinar was Professor Simon Leunig, Pro Vice-Chancellor and President of Curtin Malaysia, and in the course of the webinar’s question-and-answer segment, discussion focused on the effectiveness of the measures implemented in Australia and the benefits and effectiveness of modelling in determining action to control the spread of COVID-19.

Professor Leunig, in his closing remarks, said that Curtin Malaysia has expanded its course offerings to include a Master of Public Health coursework programme that teaches students a range of conceptual knowledge and practical skills to support public health action in communities.

Professor Jaya Dantas.

Associate Professor Nick Golding.

A section of the webinar’s audience of over 100.

Share this