15th Mar 2013

Launch of Kidney Action Network

The Kidney Action Network was launched in Alice Springs on World Kidney Day.

Family. Country. Compassion. Hope.

These words, written onto a sea of purple balloons, were a poignant symbol of unity for almost 100 people who gathered in Alice Springs recently to launch the Kidney Action Network.

Those gathered yesterday – World Kidney Day – included representatives from Aboriginal health organisations, NGOs, health workers and renal patients and their families, many of whom have had to relocate into town to access the dialysis services they rely on to survive.

John Paterson, CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) said in his address that kidney disease affects Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory at greater rates than anywhere in Australia.

“Its impact is felt most acutely in our remote communities, where the social and cultural structures and everyday wellbeing of our communities depends on the presence of our old people. We need them to be present as long as possible.”

Mr Paterson called on the SA, WA and NT governments to work together with the Commonwealth and the community sector to “engage in proper planning and provide the extra services and infrastructure that are essential for a fair deal for remote area kidney patients.”

“The Kidney Action Network has been established to put life at the front and centre of health policy here in the NT.”

Bobby West, Chair of Western Desert Dialysis, also called on governments to work together on solutions for renal patients in the NT.

“Instead of fighting each other, governments should be working together,” Mr West commented. “We just want to live longer.”

Messages of support from Dr Mandawuy Yunupingu and Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner were read out.

Most touching were the words spoken by renal patients themselves:

“Every day I'm in two places. I'm here [in Alice Springs] for my family who are on renal but I'm also back home where my country and my family are. Families are worried for families. Governments should build something out on the lands so that everybody can be safe and healthy.”  Margaret Smith from Imanpa, NT

“We are worrying for our families back home when we here [in Alice Springs] for renal. We cry because we lost our family here. We need something to help people to go back home and sit down with family. We been talking about this one for long time and we still talking. We are crying for our family. Lot of Aboriginal people they all got renal.” Janet Inyika from Amata, APY Lands, SA

Also speaking at the launch was Donna Ah Chee, CEO of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress; Sarah Brown, CEO of Western Desert Dialysis; Andrea Mason, Coordinator of NPY Women’s Council; Preston Thomas, Deputy Chair of Ngaanyatjarra Health / Director of Western Desert Dialysis.

The importance of tri-state planning – between Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia – was emphasized as one of the critical issue for the Network to lobby state and territory governments.

Preston Thomas, in his address, summed it up very well:

“Expecting people to seek renal treatment thousands of kilometres from home is not Closing the Gap.”