Remote Indigenous community wins decade-long health battle | Australia news

After a 10-year battle by elders and renal health workers in central Australia, the first remote South Australian dialysis clinic officially opened its doors this week at Pukatja (Ernabella), an Anangu community about seven hours south-west of Alice Springs.

Seven patients, who were previously living in Adelaide, Port Augusta and Alice Springs for treatment, have already returned home to continue dialysis at the four-chair, two-nurse Purple House centre at Pukatja, 30km across the SA border in the Musgrave Ranges.

Purple House is an Aboriginal community-controlled health service that provides dialysis in 17 remote communities and a mobile unit called the Purple Truck, which allows patients to head back home to visit family, for festivals, funerals and other cultural business.

The Purple Truck this year trekked to Arnhem Land so that patients could attend Garma festival while receiving life-saving treatment. One of those in the chair at Garma was the actor Jack Thompson.

The Purple House began with an auction of paintings at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000, when Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrikurra developed four collaborative paintings that were auctioned with a series of other work and raised over $1m.

Since the centre – which is entirely Indigenous owned and run – began, central Australia has gone from having the worst survival rates for kidney disease to some of the best in Australia.

William Sandy and Tjunkaya Tapaya at the new dialysis clinic at Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia

William Sandy and Tjunkaya Tapaya at the new dialysis clinic at Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia.

The Purple House chief executive, Sarah Brown, said the clinic at Pukatja was the culmination of a decade of work by patients, their families and the community.

“Ten years ago, Kinyin McKenzie knocked on the door of the Purple House in Alice Springs, homesick for his community and looking for somewhere that would let him boil up a chicken in a billy,” Brown said.

“Our directors welcomed him in. While his chicken boiled on the fire, he told us about all the people far from home who were desperate to return to their APY communities, their country and families.

“Our bosses, Pintupi people from the Western Desert, said: ‘Poor things. It doesn’t matter that they are Pitjantjatjara, everyone on dialysis is family to us. We need to help them to get home.’”

Years later, Purple House had an opportunity from the commonwealth government to nominate places for new dialysis infrastructure.

“Our directors quickly suggested Pukatja, even though they didn’t have dialysis in all their own communities at the time,” Brown said.

The clinic is named for Kinyin McKenzie and in memory of those who “fought for this service and passed away before they were able to get home”.

“But current and future dialysis patients will benefit from their determination,” Brown said. “This is a great example of Aboriginal people working together to make lives better for families in communities.”

Source link