Remote clinics provide dialysis to Indigenous Australians

8 個月前

STORY: Three times a week, Rachel Napaltjarri, an Aboriginal woman suffering from kidney failure, comes to this mobile medical unit in a remote town in central Australia to receive lifesaving dialysis treatment to cleanse her blood.

Clinics like this one are a vital lifeline for Indigenous Australians, who have high rates of chronic kidney disease, and often live in remote regions where access to dialysis is otherwise limited.

Sarah Brown, the CEO of The Purple House which runs the clinic, says the project demonstrates how including the community can improve outcomes.

This is why she's calling on Australians to vote "Yes" in the upcoming referendum on recognizing Indigenous Australians and giving them their own "Voice to Parliament".

“Having policy that where Aboriginal people have actually been able to advise and have some input on whether an idea is going to work or not is such a simple no-brainer, but could have such a big impact."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who make up only 3.8% of Australia's population, are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to have chronic kidney disease.

Brown calls it a disease of “poverty, dispossession and powerlessness,” that became widespread in the transition from a seminomadic lifestyle to reliance on processed foods.

55-year-old Napaltjarri has been on dialysis for six years and will need it for the rest of her life, unless she receives a kidney transplant.

She is one of dozens of Indigenous Australians who receive treatment at the 19 community-led dialysis clinics run by The Purple House.

For these patients, The Purple House offers a home away from home.

"We don't have flashier machines, or we have experienced nurses but they are not more experienced than anywhere else. The only difference is that people are running this place together and they get to control what happens to them and they can help other communities out. It's pretty inspiring really."

Because the clinics are located close to remote Aboriginal communities, Indigenous Australians receiving dialysis are able to preserve cultural ties.

"Dialysis takes five hours every second day. So, three times a week for the rest of your life. So if you're from a really remote community, then you have to pack up your life and move to town to stay alive. So we were starting to return people to their families and their country to take part in community life to look after their sacred sites, to pass on their cultural heritage to the next generation."

Brown says community-led services like these have helped central Australia go from having the worst dialysis survival rates in the country to the best.

They are effective, Brown says, because they empower Aboriginal people to organize and advocate for themselves.

She believes that progress could be repeated on a broader scale if Australians vote to approve the upcoming Australian Indigenous Voice referendum:

"So by enshrining it in the Constitution, it actually gives people a chance to make some sustainable change. And what I would think we will find is a fairer, more equitable Australia, and I think we should all really be proud if we manage to get this through. I can't even think or talk about the alternative to that."