Dialysis Donation to Revolutionise Medical Treatment in South Australia’s APY Lands

An international grant will deliver the first permanent renal dialysis treatment units to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, in what will be the biggest change to health delivery in the remote region’s recent history.

The $US153,000 Rotary International global grant will deliver four treatment units to a dialysis centre to be built at Pukatja/Ernabella Community, in far north South Australia.

The combined grant includes money raised from Rotary clubs in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales as well as funding from partner clubs in Kansas City, Missouri.

Community-directed not-for-profit The Purple House will operate the centre and contribute more than $170,000 to the operating costs of the facility.

The grant is in addition to $1.7 million of Federal Government funding to build the centre announced in 2015.

Grant a ‘significant contribution’

The Purple House chief executive Sarah Brown said she could hardly believe it when the grant was confirmed.

“When I heard that it had been approved it was almost a ‘knickers-on-the-head’ occasion,” Ms Brown said.

“It’s really significant because it shows people from Rotary around Australia and the world are keen to help us out. That makes us so happy.”

She said Kansas had a special connection to the plight of Aboriginal people seeking on-country treatment.

“I keep on thinking of the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy clicking her shoes saying ‘There’s no place like home’,” she said.

“Certainly for people who are currently on dialysis in Adelaide, Port Augusta and Alice Springs, there is certainly nowhere like home and they are really looking forward to getting home to their families.”

An Aboriginal elder stands alongside a white middle-aged woman surrounded by Aboriginal art in a gallery

Many people living on the APY Lands are often forced to travel more than 1,000km to Adelaide, Alice Springs or Port Augusta for treatment.

Some choose to stay on the lands and not receive treatment.

The grant proposal had been in planning with Rotary for many months, with discussions beginning last year when the APY Arts Collective held an Aboriginal fine art auction at the Tarnanthi festival.

While the grant provides a positive step forward in the process, Ms Brown said there were many other discussions surrounding the facility taking place.

“There’s an opportunity which is about a Medicare item number for dialysis completed by a nurse in a remote community. That will really help secure funding in the long term,” she said.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing some progress on the ground in Ernabella, because everyone who’s worked for this and advocated for it for the last 10 years or more will get very excited when they actually see some action happening.”

Aboriginal art auction added flair to plan

Elders from the APY Lands community instigated an Aboriginal fine art auction in Adelaide late last year to help raise money for the centre at The Purple House.

APY artists donated works to the auction, which raised almost $170,000.

One European art collector paid $63,000 for an artwork painted by 20 senior elders of the Tjala arts women’s collective, including celebrated artists Wawiriya Burton and Yaritji Young.

The work is currently on display at the South Australian Museum.

Middle-aged man with white and grey beard wipes a tear from his face from behind a lectern.Ernabella elder Tjunkaya Tapaya summed up the sentiments of her community at the event.

“I’m very excited and happy to get the money and the centre because it’s not just for my family. I’ve lost my husband, my older brother, my older sister and my younger brother to this [kidney-related health issues],” she said.

Amata artist Nyurpaya Kaika Burton said the auction was born out of a lack of government action.

“All of us artists got together and donated our canvases and our paintings to raise money for this dialysis centre because time and time again we’ve got family members who come down to Adelaide,” she said.

“They’re there for so long and then they pass away and then the only time some family members will see them again is in the coffin.”

Collaboration key to success

Past district governor with Rotary District 9520 and current chairman of the Rotary Foundation Committee for the district, Jerry Casburn, said the global grant was an excellent achievement.

He said the grant application had been an intensive process for all parties and further work was planned.

“We had to demonstrate [to the international Rotary community] that the whole project is sustainable,” Mr Casburn said.

“There are also plans from other clubs to form a working group to head to the Pukatja to complete painting, garden installation and develop further things associated with the facility.”

District 9520 encompasses clubs at Broken Hill, Adelaide, Mildura and parts of the Riverland and Fleurieu Peninsula.

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