ALICE SPRINGS –
Rachel Napaltjarri, an Indigenous woman with end-stage kidney failure, undergoes dialysis three times a week in a mobile medical unit located in the remote outback town of Alice Springs in central Australia.
She has been undergoing dialysis for six years and will require continued treatment unless she receives a kidney transplant.
Napaltjarri, who is 55 years old, is among a group of Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals who receive treatment for kidney failure at The Purple House, a healthcare organization led by the Aboriginal community, through remote dialysis clinics.
The CEO of The Purple House, Sarah Brown, stated in an interview with Reuters that being based in Alice Springs showcases the positive impact of community engagement on the well-being of Australia’s Indigenous population.
“We lack flashy equipment or highly experienced nurses,” she stated. “The only distinction is that we work together to operate this facility, giving us control over our own fate and the ability to assist other communities,” she explained.
According to Brown, the Purple House serves as proof that involving the community can lead to better results. She is optimistic that the country will vote in favor of recognizing Indigenous Australians in the constitution and establishing an advisory group called the “Voice to Parliament” in the upcoming Oct. 14 referendum.
Brown stated that implementing a policy where Aboriginal individuals are given the opportunity to provide input on the feasibility of an idea is a straightforward decision that could have significant effects.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that individuals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, representing approximately 3.8% of the total population, have a higher likelihood of suffering from chronic kidney disease compared to non-Indigenous individuals.
Brown described the condition as a result of poverty, displacement, and lack of control, stemming from a former nomadic way of life to a dependence on processed meals.
Renal failure is a prevalent factor in the deaths of Indigenous individuals. However, according to Brown, the community-driven approach of Purple House has aided in improving central Australia’s dialysis survival rates from the lowest in the nation to the highest.
The healthcare system manages 19 clinics in remote areas within the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and South Australia.
The treatment for kidney failure involves undergoing dialysis three times a week, lasting for five hours each session. This can often result in families having to relocate from their homes to either Alice Springs or Darwin to receive the necessary treatment.
Elderly individuals are no longer able to provide guidance for their communities, families are torn apart, and cultural ties are diminished. Additionally, patients experience feelings of loneliness and sadness.
The Purple House serves as a second home for Indigenous dialysis patients, according to Brown. Their goal is to support individuals in maintaining their ties to their land and loved ones, even as they receive treatment for advanced kidney disease.