The Western Desert Dialysis program started in 2000 in response to the need for Pintupi/Luritja people with renal disease to leave their families, country and homes to seek treatment in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Many suffered great hardship and dislocation in the town, and communities feared for their future wellbeing if senior Pintupi were not there to pass on their cultural knowledge.
The first fundraising appeal was in 2000, when people from the Western Desert painted pictures and held an auction at the Art Gallery of NSW. They raised over $1 million to support patients in Alice Springs and to set up dialysis facilities out in the bush. Their aim was to return people to their country and families where they belong.
The Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation is the non-government organisation formed to continue the work of the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal. The name means ‘keeping all our families well'.
The funds raised allowed a dialysis facility to be set up at Kintore in 2004. This was the first remote dialysis machine in Central Australia and the Western Desert communities are justifiably proud of what they have achieved.
Since then centres have been established in Alice Springs (the Purple House), Walungurru (Kintore), Yuendumu, Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Lajamanu, Santa Teresa, Warburton and Kiwirrkurra.
Mobile dialysis services are provided in The Purple Truck which travels to various centres. The artist Patrick Tjungarrayi made the design painted on the side of the truck (photo by Wayne Quilliam):
The centres offer people respite from hospital, dialysis on community (haemo and peritoneal dialysis) and an opportunity to learn self care dialysis.
Community families continue to care for their members who have kidney disease, seek support for their work and share their story with other remote communities who battle with the same problems.
They are also working to reduce the incidence of kidney disease in the hope that their children and grandchildren will not need arduous dialysis treatment.
As a result of the facilities, people are healthier, living longer and more community members are seeking treatment earlier.
Dialysis patient Maurice and marlu (kangaroo)
While there has been some government support, there are still many gaps in funding that the Corporation is trying to fill. Support from the wider Australian community is therefore essential.
You can donate directly to WDNWPT by sending a cheque or postal order to WDNWPT, PO Box 5060, Alice Springs NT 0871 or by direct bank deposit or by online donation. To request their bank account details you can contact the Program on 08 8953 6444 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org (delete nospam). Donations are usually tax-deductible for Australian residents. For more information, and to add your name to the Program's mailing list, you can visit the Western Desert Dialysis Program Web site.