Wellness in remote Aboriginal communities


Project Compassion 2012 News Story
Audrey and the children tend to the community garden...the UFPA's Diabetes Management and Care program strives to prevent diseases like diabetes and to improve healthcare across vulnerable communities in Djarindjin and eight other remote communities across the Kimberley region. Edible vegetable gardens are encouraged to help improve participants' health. Photo: Caritas Australia

Audrey is a Bardi woman from Djarindjin, a remote community 200km north of Broome in Western Australia. As is sadly true of many Indigenous communities, the rates of deadly ‘lifestyle’ diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure run high.

In fact, just a few years ago the diabetes rates in Audrey’s community were well over 30 per cent, many times higher than the Australian average.

To prevent diseases like diabetes and improve healthcare in vulnerable communities, Caritas Australia and the Unity of First People of Australia (UFPA) run a holistic, community-owned Diabetes Management and Care Program in Djarindjin as well as eight other remote communities across the Kimberley.

Audrey first heard about the program in 2005 when UFPA’s staff visited her children’s school. Eager to support her family’s health and learn about the wellness initiative, she set out to make her community a healthier one.

“Aboriginal people die too young from diabetes – it is important to stop this,” Audrey said.

“There are lots of people with diabetes here but before, people didn’t know about it.”

Audrey encourages families to attend an initial community health assessment. Many adults and children are found to be overweight and at significant risk of chronic diseases. The assessments were a challenging new step for the community but with Audrey’s support, UFPA welcomed families on a journey towards wellness.

“Now people are looking after themselves”

Project Compassion 2012 News Story
Photo: Caritas Australia
In partnership with local Aboriginal communities, UFPA trains volunteer carers, like Audrey, who help their communities deal with and prevent ‘lifestyle’ diseases like diabetes.

Audrey now encourages families to make lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as enhancing the quality of life for those affected by diabetes.

The nine communities supported by UFPA have seen sustained environmental changes and community engagement including the introduction of edible community gardens, cooking classes, school breakfast programs and diabetes and nutrition education. Community stores now stock healthy food choices and people are embracing leisure and sports initiatives.

Through a consistent local presence and culturally-appropriate initiatives, UFPA has built trusting relationships with remote communities and helped bridge the gap with mainstream medical, government and educational services.

During Djarindijin’s most recent health assessment not a single new case of diabetes was recorded – an enormous credit to the partnership of UFPA and the community.

“Now people are looking after themselves,” Audrey said.

“But diabetes is still a big challenge. We’re trying to slow things down by drinking water and eating less sweets and takeaway. Thank you for bringing this program to our community.”

To donate, support or fundraise for Project Compassion 2012, please visit our website at www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion or Ph: 1800 024 423


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