Series featuring Highland GP Doctor Mary Fortune as she returns to the Australian outback to work in an Aboriginal clinic for three months. She is shocked by what she finds.
Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Doctor Mary Fortune is on her way to fulfil a commitment she made two
years ago. Today is a day that I've looked forward to for a long time.
This is where really it starts for me. Get my sleeves rolled up, get
my hands dirty and begin to learn. I'm not usually an anxious person
but I have to say, I'm very anxious about how things are going to go.
So it's all very well saying, I'm a doctor, I'm Scottish. You know,
here I am, I'm going to look after you and do all this and the next
thing. But at the same token, I've got to be accepted, you know?
experienced GP of 25 years, Mary and her family live in the small
Highland town of Brora. For ten weeks, Mary Fortune is posted to
some of the strangest and most remote parts of Western Australia.
In 2008, Mary had her experiences recorded for a television series,
Desperately Seeking Doctors, and was shocked by the third-world
conditions in an Aboriginal community. A patient said to me
yesterday, my expectation of life is 42 years-old. I mean, that is
just appalling. It is not good enough. Something's got to be done
about this. But before the family reunion, there's one final
question... Yeah, I remember the question very well. Would I return
to Australia to work as a doctor again? And there was no hesitation
in my reply. I would come back to Australia, but I would want to work
in an Aboriginal area. That's where the greatest medical needs are in
Australia, and my burning ambition for the last two years is to go
back and work in one of these communities, and you know, I've got
Kununurra - one of the most remote inhabited towns in Australia. On
the edge of the town is the OVAHS Aboriginal clinic, serving an area
around twice the size of Scotland, and Mary's workplace for the next
three months. Doctor Mary, this is our reception area. That's Cathy.
Cathy, say hello to our new doctor. Hi, Cathy. As you can see, there's
lots of patients waiting for us. Busy. Yeah, busy clinic. Yeah, yeah.
Since opening in 1983 to cater for the specific needs of Aboriginal
healthcare, the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service Clinic,
or OVAHS, has grown from one part- time doctor to over 60 full and
part-time staff from all over the world. Have you met Doctor Mary?
Nice to meet you at last. Hi, how do you do? CEO Graeme Cooper is
from Glasgow. He's been working in Aboriginal healthcare for the last
ten years. In the past six months, OVAHS have lost two doctors,
through no fault of OVAHS, and we're desperately seeking a doctor.
Yeah. And having you turn up here to share the workload of our
current doctors, who see up to 130 people a day, is vital. We do have
a priority system of our elders... Yeah. And mothers with babies.
Everyone else, in between, you've got to wait. Sometimes people wait
over four hours to see a doctor. Four hours, yeah. But that's just
how it is. So a ten-minute appointment doesn't work. Very few
and far between. Nothing is ever just straight forward. There's
always a bit of an edge somewhere else. With a huge backlog of
patients, Mary hits the ground running. We're in room two, which
is just along there. You OK, darling? That's it, coming off.
have two-and-a-half full-time doctors and one locum. What we need
is a minimum of five permanent doctors. However, in order to see
every single person, we need seven doctors, simple as that. So you've
got a huge shortfall. Oh, it's massive, it's massive. We need
seven doctors, we need 13 nurses, 13 Aboriginal health workers, we
need seven drivers and we need five people working at the front desk.
We don't have that. It's not just the volume of patients. Mary is
about to come face-to-face with some local idiosyncrasies. I've got
bitten by a hairy caterpillar. It's really itchy. You've been bitten by
a hairy caterpillar? Yes. I was born like that. You were born like
that? Yeah. With a hernia? I'm just going to get a pair of pliers, see
what we can do. The main thing is feeling not in total control of
your job. I mean, it's one thing doing the medical side, examining
patients... Didn't feel a thing. But it's all the other sort of
little added frustrations that take time. It's so difficult to read
this nurse's writing. And it will come. I will learn how to do it. Do
you know how old you are? How old are you? I don't know. You don't
know. A lot of the patients, they don't even know what age they are.
You know, they don't know what drugs they're on. Does Selbutamel
ring a bell with you? That's fine. Good. It's still ticking away and
that's the important thing. I'm very anxious about not missing
something in a patient. That will come, but there's a definite sort
of "I'm not too sure about you, Doctor. You're a new face on the
block". Gaining trust is one thing and you can't do that after a quick
consultation. There's no such thing as a quick consultation in this
building. Take a deep breath in for me. You've got noises in your chest.
You know, you've got noises of air constriction where it gets really
tight. Am I throwing this in the bin? This patient has been given an
emergency consultation after arriving at the clinic in a
breathless state. If you feel a wee bit sort of claustrophobic, you
know, you can loosen it, take it off. But just breathe it nice and
gently. Margaret Moore has a complex medical history and Mary
needs help to make sense of her notes. Yeah, while she's on
rheumatic heart disease she needs to see a physician and have an echo
done every year. Right, and that was in August last year. How urgent
is urgent when you've got rheumatic heart disease? There we go. We'll
leave you for a few minutes. You probably heard us rabbiting on here.
It's fortunate, well not fortunate for you that you've got a wheezy
chest, but it's good that you've come in because there's quite a lot
of things that we need to discuss. Margaret's underlying condition is
a whole new experience for Mary. a doctor, I have never seen
rheumatic heart disease hands-on because in Scotland people got
rheumatic heart disease before the invention of penicillin. It's
caused by poor sanitation, poor diet, lack of access to doctors, to
medical services. Recurrent infections, either it be a sore
throat or sores or whatever, these bugs come into the body, they go
down get into the heart, bang. Time bomb, you know. And really, you do
wonder how that can happen in a country like this. But to the
specialist nurse, Stacy Robinson, this is nothing new. And it's got a
lot to do with overcrowding in houses, running of fresh water.
Just general cleanliness and the lack of all of that attributes to
these infections. In Australia we shouldn't have this. It's
disgraceful. It's absolutely astounding, really. I came from
Perth, studied in Perth, knew nothing about rheumatic heart
disease. Now I run the programme on rheumatic heart disease. What do
you think about what we're saying here? Cos I'm shocked, and...
know. It's sad, but it's quite true what you guys are saying. Rheumatic
heart disease affects around one in 30. Right, do not go away. Patients
like Margaret are eight times more likely than non-indigenous
Australians to be hospitalised by it and 23 more likely to die from
it. It's tragic, really tragic. It's absolutely disgraceful. I mean,
there's a young woman, she's only 49. My God, you know. It's sad when
I have kids less than nine years- old come in and they've got all
sore joints, can't move, can't walk, can't run. We have to go to the
community, we have to go to members, like elder members of the community,
educate them about the problem with rheumatic heart disease. We then
have to go to the shire and say, we are basically killing the community
if we continue to let them live in overcrowded houses without running
water. We just... But then it has to be a government thing, doesn't
it? Exactly. It has to go back to grass roots and say, look, you've
got a bloody time bomb on your hands up here. We shouldn't have to
be dealing with third-world illnesses that are eradicated in
other countries. And that's before tackle the problem of possible TB
and leprosy. Isn't that true? Sorry, we had to have a wee bit of
a, er, whatsit. Now... consultation has lasted over an
hour but Margaret has another reason for attending a clinic, a
situation impacting directly on her condition. She desperately needs to
be re-housed. I live, like we say, in a house full of family members
and it's my daughter's family I share with, and she's already got
her family, other family and like you were talking about overcrowding
and stuff, I need to get a simple letter from the doctors about my
condition so that it can help me to get my own housing. It will not be
a simple letter. It will be a very direct letter. I will find out
exactly the name of the person at the Housing Department at Kununurra.
Yes. Would you like us to come and visit your house, so I could see it
firsthand? Oh, it's not dirty or anything... No, just to say, look,
I've been at Margaret's house, I've seen what it's like and you need
urgently to be re-housed. Let's get back in touch. Yep. OK. OK, no
worries. Right. That was some consultation. It's increasingly
apparent that there are much more problems here than I would ever
anticipate, and maybe touch on that later, you know, cos it is
distressing. Right, madam. Just... Yeah, OK, I'll be there in a sec.
would say that it's getting better. However, the healthcare needs of
Aboriginal people are massive. estimated Aboriginal life
expectancy is up to 20 years less than non-indigenous Australians.
Almost half of Aboriginal men and over a third of Aboriginal women
Five years ago, the government embarked on a healthplan campaign,
Close The Gap, an attempt to improve the life expectancy of
Aboriginals. The actual Close The Gap, those three words actually
came from Oxfam and the Aboriginal Community controlled health
services themselves. We are not at a stage yet where we have
identified what that gap is, and we can't until we have the appropriate
environment where the appropriate number of employees will enable us
to effectively assess our clients' needs. But five years later, little
has changed and Aboriginal healthcare is still lagging way
behind the government's own targets. A small town, Kununurra is
identified in the vast wilderness by its spectacular landmark, a
sacred hill called Mirima by the Aboriginals, but renamed by the
In recent years, the population has boomed, as the town gradually
developed into the administrative and business centre of the region.
Very different to when Mary first visited here. I was just thinking,
I'd heard how much this place has changed. Alistair and I, when we
did a tour of Australia 20 odd years ago, it seems a long time ago
now, but it seems like yesterday in fact, and it makes you think what
has actually been the reason for this bush town to expand, and it's
This, then, is the site and the potential of the Ord River project,
and of Kununurra, the town it has produced. The modern town of
Kununurra is only 50 years-old and is a product of a massive 1960's
engineering project, the Ord Irrigation Scheme. By the end of
1964, the West Australia government expects to have more than 20 farms
in operation, each of nearly 700 acres. The River Ord was dammed and
irrigated, turning the vast landscape from dust to profitable
arable soil. But in the process, many sacred Aboriginal burial sites
and revered landmarks were flooded The success of the irrigation
scheme proved phenomenal for intensive farming and agriculture.
There soon followed an explosion of growth in the mining industries,
including the world's biggest producing diamond mine, the Argyle.
During the '90s, after decades of legal battles, some land rights
were won back by the indigenous people, paving the way for
Aboriginal elders like Peggy Patrick to negotiate with the
mining companies for social and Peggy, I'm Doctor Mary. In you come.
Sorry you had to wait for a wee bit there, but you're OK with that.
have to speak up a bit louder because she's bunged up in the ear.
Oh, all right. Are you deaf? Yeah. Can you understand me? Peggy,
you're deaf and I can't understand, so we're doing well! Peggy Patrick
has an established reputation as an artist and writer. I've read all
about you and it's just clicked who you are. I'd read about you in Fire
Fire Burning Bright. That's you? Yeah, that's mine. Fantastic!
I've done two corroborees... said in that book that you have
been a cook, a nurse, a midwife, a mechanic, a stock, a jillaroo...
Peggy's work has taken her around the world, and her tireless efforts
for conciliation between black and white resulted in a meeting with
Nelson Mandela. But recently, she has had some minor medical problems.
Peggy, what can I do for you today? What medicine do you need? Medicine
today? Do you need... Check-up. You come for check-up, Unna? Peggy has
brought with her OVAHS community nurse and adopted family member
Gian Carlo, to help with today's appointment. Cos you came last week
and you had blood taken. Yes, I gave blood last week, and they gave
me tablets but they wanted to change the tablets. Right, give me
one second. The medical records reveal Peggy and her husband have
been nomadic in their search for healthcare and in their search for
a place to live. Because she was homeless, and then, you know, you
had no house. Peggy has had a rolling battle with the local
housing department for the last two years. I understand that. And Peggy,
your husband is very unwell. want to know how Muchie is. So he's
fluctuating because of his condition? Yeah. And he's in
Kununurra Hospital now? And in the meantime, where's... At the
hospital with her husband. God's truth. Darling, are you
prepared for your husband's... Yeah, yeah. He'll come back again.
He'll come back again to you. In spirit. Yeah, come back, go away
again. Well, sometimes you've got to be real strong yourself. I can
see that you are a strong woman, yeah? And the first homeless
Australian to win the Order of Australia. Say that... Say that
again? So you've been given that award. Like giving you a knighthood,
or saying "sir" or "dame", or whatever. But you got that award
recognised by government for being... But you got that award,
but you still got no house. Peggy has been awarded one of Australia's
most prestigious honours, the Order of Australia, for preservation of
I'm real... You know... I do it for the people like make people
understand what it means to them. But in your heart, you've been
working hard for black people and white people to be friends and walk
that country together. Oh, I can't believe. I can't believe. I can't
believe this like I get it. I couldn't believe. You deserve it,
Aunty. Yeah. You're right, Aunty. Maybe what we should do is write to
the government to say, thanks for my Order of Australia award, but I
actually need a wall to hang it on, hmm? But it didn't get to me.
Unbelievable, unbelievable. And when people get to... How old are
you? How old are you now? What age are you? How old you? I dunno!
don't know? I would say you're probably in your 70s. The point
that I'm trying to make for you, my darling, is that people in their
70s should be thinking about having a quiet time, a house together, and
you find yourself with no house, husband in hospital, serious
illness, and I find it shocking. You want to talk about woman
business? Do you... Women's business? Mary and Peggy have
quickly established an understanding and friendship, and
Peggy invites Mary to a traditional Aboriginal ceremony. You can come
there. I would like to come and see. Yeah. And get painted and...
come over to my office and you have The vast Kimberly region is
peppered with small isolated communities, and twice a week OVAHS
send out a small medical team to Will I just set things up here?
small Glen Hill community is a five-hour drive, 150 kilometres
south of Kununurra. Well, it's called the bush telegraph,
basically. It's just a small community of maybe 60, 70 people,
so word gets around that we're here. So we'll just see what happens and
who pitches up on time. Bearing in mind there's no appointments.
People don't wear watches here. through, go through, quick.
these are... These are all the kids that have got sores? One of the
primary functions of the mobile clinic is child health. Treating
even the smallest wounds and insect bites prevents the onset of many
diseases. Impetigo, scabies, ringworm and mange, left untreated,
can lead to more serious illnesses later in life. There's cream to
help the ringworm on your face. Well, you need to have bigger hands
if you're going to be a doctor. So who's next? You can all be the
doctor. Today it's a race against the clock through rugged terrain in
searing temperatures of over 40 degrees. You're expecting a few
more people than last time? Yeah, we're probably going to have... Get
some more stockmen in here and probably give them their jab, their
flu vaccine if they want it. But other than that, they're probably
running away from us. The check gives health workers a chance to
collect valuable information on the scattered population and any
serious conditions can be followed up. Right, can you do some big
breaths for me. Big puffs. Six- year-old Steven Craig has a slight
fever and loss of appetite. But he also has a more serious condition,
a heart murmur which requires regular monitoring at the OVAHS
clinic. Is she eating and drinking OK? Yeah. Basic checks are crucial
in these remote areas. Aboriginal children under four are 30 times
more likely to suffer from malnutrition and are three times
more likely to die before they reach their fifth birthday than
A week following the field trip, and OVAHS are holding one of their
days of specialist surgeries, bringing patients from many of the
outlying communities including some familiar faces. Hi, there, hello.
Hello. You here to see the cardiologist today? Yeah? This is
the wee fella that had the wee heart murmur isn't it, yeah? Yeah,
so this is his appointment today? Yes, yes. Right, and you're the dad.
I'm the grandfather. Oh, you're the grandfather. You don't look old
enough to be a grandfather. Hi, wee fellow. Is that right? Cos we saw
all your kids that day, didn't we? They all had colds. Steven is
mixed-race and his family may have a history of heart disease, which
makes it more important to monitor his condition. Heart specialist
Doctor Jim Ramsay travels from Perth six times a year to hold his
surgery. We'll have a little listen, Mary is concerned about her patient
with rheumatic heart disease, and Doctor Ramsay's bi-monthly surgery
gives her the opportunity to pick his brains. I'm really quite out of
my depth because it's not something that you really see in Scotland and
Ireland. Yeah, that's true. Like, I'm originally from England and I
had never seen rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease when I did
my training in the UK, but within the first few months of arriving in
Perth, I saw a three-year-old child with severe heart involvement with
rheumatic fever. And that was, I say, in the late 70s, and now we're
30 years on and things have not changed that much. How's that?
look there. There's your heart. Aboriginal children have just about
the highest incidence of rheumatic fever in the world. Although we've
got smaller numbers, we actually see more rheumatic fever in the
Kimberly than probably Africa, India, continents where rheumatic
fever is very common. But we still see a higher incidence here. That's
what shocks me with what you've said, you know? 30 years, I mean,
you've been around a long time. Yeah. And nothing has changed?
yep. A lot of Aboriginal adults die in their 20s and 30s with bad
rheumatic heart disease. Shocking, isn't it? But predominantly it's
living situations, so if you can improve the whole social situation,
if you can end up with two or three or four people in a house, the
chance of getting rheumatic fever's The letter to help with Margaret
Moore's housing application is Mary's next task. The home-visit is
a ten-minute journey, taking her through the centre of town. It's
taken me some time to suss it out but this place has two populations.
They have a white population and a black population. They're living in
parallel and very little crossover. You know, one population ignores
the other, and that's what I mean. White people ignore black people
and black people ignore white people, with very little
interaction. It is sad and I know that people are going to sort of
say, what the hell does she know, but I do think there is
discrimination in this town. I do think there's a lot of injustices.
You just need to look at the housing. I was told that 98% of the
people on the housing list here are Aboriginal. Now I wonder who the
other 2% are. Cos you don't see any Found you, at last. Yeah. So, how
are you? Margaret Moore has been staying at her daughter's house,
helping out with the grandchildren for ten years. Good morning. One,
two, three, four. Aboriginal families like Margaret's have a
highly complex structure, which can hugely increase the number of close
relatives. This is the sitting room? Yeah. But it's a bedroom.
Yeah. Family members come and go, with many staying for indefinite
periods. Three mattresses. So who sleeps here? That's just a couple
of the kids. Margaret shares with 12 other adults and children, but
sometimes many more. So there's six adult couples... Here now. Here now,
and five children. But at times, when family come the house is
heaving, it seems, as it is. Last night I had about ten kids I
counted last night. Ten kids in here? Ten kids. Now this fridge in
here has to keep food cool... Aboriginal housing standards have
been identified as one of the key areas that impact directly on
health, particularly for children. This is where you do your washing?
Yeah, but because I don't have a machine. I have to go over to my
brother's. Do they have to do... Yeah, by hand. A seven-year-long
government investigation as part of the Close The Gap campaign,
revealed that only a third of Aboriginal housing has basic
washing facilities. Only 11% has basic electrical safety and less
than 10% has basic kitchen facilities, with no provision to
store, prepare and cook a meal in. So this has been like this for a
long time? For a long time we've been telling them but they never do
anything about it. I try not to stress myself, because that's the
last thing I want is to get myself stressed. It would make anyone
stressed, from living in this situation. But a strong letter from
a doctor goes a long way. Because of my condition, they wouldn't
believe me, unless it comes from a doctor's point of view. Why won't
they believe you? Because that's the way it is. We've got whatever
we've got, you know? They're not going to believe us. They don't
Back in the clinic, Mary has had an emergency call. Where's the
emergency? They're for me? They're for you. There's a little card in
there. You're joking. Are they from Well, today is... I'll just read
this little note actually, when Bay's here. It says, "By proxy,
love for 25 years and looking forward to the next 25. Best love,
Alistair". Oh, isn't that lovely? Silver wedding anniversary. Isn't
that nice? All the way from... tell you, they travelled well from
Brora. I don't know how many miles that would be. He's the most
wonderful man and he's been good It's three weeks since Mary last
saw her family but they keep in touch every day. Hi, there. Hello.
Happy anniversary. Yeah, happy anniversary to you, too. 25 years!
I know, I know. I tell you, they're much nicer than the flowers that
you used to buy as a cheapskate from Rankin's on Friday night!
they're lovely. They're lovely, yeah. It's a bit strange, not being
together, you know. Very strange. Well, you'll have a great time.
know. Cheers. When you've worked hard all day you're just desperate
to get home and, you know, see a couple of friendly faces. Can you
speak to me? Just to say, what was your day like? How'd you get on?
And you do feel socially isolated. And you think, what am I going to
do, you know? Sometimes it's like, you know, oh, to hell, I'll just
sit and read a book out the back and put some Scotch music on, tap
my feet to Andy Stewart. How sad is that, you know? I mean, it's just
so sad. OK, darling, I love you. Lots of love. I miss you, and hey,
listen, cheers. Cheers. Bye. How are you today? Good? Well, if
you're good why are you at the doctor's? The thing to do is to
stick with it for at least six months to see how it's going to go.
Yeah. Do you want to take my blood pressure, cos it's going up every
minute I'm talking to you? Did you fall or were you pushed? Ah, well I
fall because I have no control of my hips and I fall in the barbecue.
Spare ribs. Yeah, spare ribs, I reckon! Barbecue spare ribs for you,
mate! So the message to people... Don't smoke. Don't smoke. Can I ask
you a very personal question? You ever set your beard on fire?
Gian Carlo has been with Peggy Patrick and her husband for the
last three days, and has come straight from the hospital with
some sad news. Peggy's husband died about two days... Two hours ago.
Yeah, at the hospital. So... How is she? She's very distraught. She's
got a lot of family around her but you know, sort of very, very upset,
when your life-long partner passes away. Well, it was 50 odd years
they've been together, wasn't it? Yeah, a long time. Oh, she'd be
absolutely gutted. Yeah. The next thing is, she has been staying and
boarding in the hospital, and from today she's homeless. Precisely.
And what is the next step? Oh, well, we've organised with family for her
to stay with family the next couple of nights at Sedalla's house. I
don't know what's going to happen next. She'll probably... She'll be
in a state of grieving and go country, go bush. So it is sad.
Yeah, it's very sad. And another library has passed, has gone. A
library of Nunagarri knowledge and information, but also that sort of
energy and spirit of that old man, who was loved by a huge... Huge
number of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Just the cycle
of life that, we work... In an area As the indigenous population dies
Kununurra is booming, and stage two of the Ord Valley Project is well
underway. The population is expected to double in the next
three years. And to accommodate the workers and new residents,
expensive housing is being built on In stark contrast, many Aboriginals
live in so-called reserves on the edge of town. It's an area that few
gadia, or white people, venture into, but Mary is determined to see
for herself. Uncertain what to expect, she is accompanied by
Aboriginal leader. I mean, this is quite a special thing, being able
to come here, isn't it, with you? Because I know they don't really
like people coming in and invading their property or their land or
whatever. So this is quite a unique situation really, for me. Probably,
too, but again I think a lot of them do want to tell their story as
to how they are living in this area. Tell their story. Yeah, yeah.
probably want that opportunity to talk. For the past six years,
Lawford has been hands-on, working for one of several organisations
responsible for the well-being and social development of the
Aboriginal people in Kununurra. Good morning, this is Alan Long.
Doctor Mary. Lawford has arranged a visit to meet resident Alan Long
and his extended family from out of town. That's my family back there...
They're having a fight amongst themselves. Right. I tried to stop
them but I can't understand what they're talking about. Are they all
fighting? Yeah. They're arguing with one another. One husband...
It's come to this... He won't speak to them. That's too bad for me. I
don't like it that way. No. There's Ah, get that dog away from me! I'm
looking over here. This is an outdoor bedroom, obviously, and
amongst all the rubbish. You know, there seems to be just chaos
everywhere. I believe if she really wants to get a taste and a feel of
a community, she had to go in neutral with her own feelings. And
I believe by me not saying nothing, I'm not pre-empting her thoughts or
feelings. So I wanted her to really get a first taste and smell of what
a community's like or getting a sense of what this community's like.
I feel if you start talking to people, you know, you get people
already start thinking and feeling things. You let them go themselves,
I really believe they're mature and educated themselves to pick up what
they really pick up on. And then you cross-reference each other
after you have that initial contact within the community. So you
actually live here, don't you? Tell me, why do all your family
come and stay here with you? Because they don't know some other
people, you know? They come from all around over. Is it because they
don't have any room to go to? and then another people much around
here. Right, so these people come here because they're homeless,
basically? Is that what you're saying? Yes, yes. So they don't
have anywhere else to go, so they come here? And so when they're here,
they stay for how long? They only just stay here for a couple of days
and then go back when they're ready to go back. Yeah. How do you feel
about that? It's OK. It's OK, cos they're family. It's your mob.
it's our mob. Do you feel that things should be done better for
you? Yes. Yeah, yeah. Have you tried to get things done here?
And what happened? Got no help. help, just ignored? Yeah, yeah.
my God. Get! You're an expert at that. Oh, right. Listen, thanks
very much for letting us come to your home, and maybe I'll see you
at the OVAHS sometime. Yeah, OK. I am so confused. I feel like I'm
swimming against the tide the whole time. I can't take it all in that
this entire area is completely... So suppressed. And utterly
depressing. It's like a ghetto, really. It's like a rural slum.
It's dysfunctional. There's social dysfunction here, it's chaotic, and
it's just a breeding ground for disease. It is. Lawford is aware of
the huge amount of government funds poured into Aboriginal
organisations, leaving him to question the way resources have
continually failed to hit their target. Well, I really strongly
believe we, as a community, need to come together and start addressing
our problems as a whole, because there's everything here that's all
connecting. We need education for a start, housing, employment. Like I
said, all these things we need to come together as a community, and
bring in the people that have that mandate and responsibilities and
the obligation to do something. Are they educating the people? That's
why I've got to ask the question. Are they really coming here,
talking to the people about their health and hygiene? That's a really
good question. So we need to be asking that question. But like I
said, I believe there's a lot of service providers are getting
Aboriginal money for whatever, whether it's health... And they do
nothing about it. Whatever it may be, but they're not being
accountable to their measurements. So it looks good on paper. Looks
good on paper, but if you look at reality it's nowhere near the paper.
We've got lots of little offices, we've got lots of little individual
bits of money, we've got lots of individual people looking as though
they're doing the job, but in fact they're not bloody doing the job.
They're not. And that's clearly apparent. I mean, you don't... It's
not bloody rocket science, is it, when you come and see this place?
So somebody needs their arse kicked to do something about this. Like I
said, Kununurra needs to be exposed when dealing with Aboriginal
affairs. There's things that... It's shocking. Have gone under the
radar and not being detected. And if it is being detected, there's
all this hand-balling of who's responsible. The more we talk about
Aboriginal issues or affairs, I mean, gadias have got to live in
this world, too. Yeah, white people. So how do we balance this in a way
that people don't get, you know, prejudiced to blackfella growth or
gadia growth? You know what I mean? Because we all live in this one
world. We're only here for a short time, like the old saying, so how
do we make the best of it? So there is hope? There is light at the end
of the tunnel? Hope we always have to have, because if we start
letting hope leave us, we're going to have no chance of surviving. I
don't care what colour you are, whether you're black, white, pink
or yellow. If you've got no hope in your system, you might as well hide
One of the biggest sporting events of the year is the football match
against the rival town of Wyndham. This is about the first football
match I've ever been to. Aussie aerial ping pong, they call it.
to honour Peggy's late husband, I think there's about 1,000 people
here. It's a big, big thing for the Kimberly. It's fantastic, isn't it?
Brings all of the kids, all the families, all the old people, and
they just love it. And for once, I'd say 98% of people here are
indigenous. Yeah. Well, this is the thing that... Oh, the whitefellas
are in the bar over there. Oh, yes, they've got their own party zone,
yes. Is that an enclosure to keep them away? I think... Well it could
be interpreted that way. I thought this was meant to be a dry night?
Well, if you're a member of the country club, of the club, you're
allowed access to alcohol. I saw Peggy over there. She's over there
with all her mob. Oh, right. her family. So all have come up
from Waterman and... That them making all the noise over there?
They're the noisiest bunch over there! The most passionate ones.
Peggy's attendance at the football Is that your grandson? The football
match is a big family occasion, with eight of Peggy's grandchildren
You must be so proud of them. Very proud of your mob! You proud of
your boys, supporting their grandfather? Is this your white
gadia daughter? Yeah, my daughter. Steph Stoner is part of Peggy's
extended family and as an expert in cultural relations, is helping
Peggy with her housing problems. would make her feel no good that us
mob as a society don't get it right for you to have your house, you
know. I get bad, you know, and I think... I don't get why... I'll go
and hang myself, kill myself. darling, you mustn't do that.
that's the only way you can do it. The only thing you can do. No, no,
no. You got more to live for. There's this wonderful woman who's
probably the most widely known woman in the Kimberly, and
respected elder, and she's talking about, you know, committing suicide.
I'm sure that was probably just a possible off-the-cuff remark,
because you know, she's feeling so down in herself and going through
the initial stages of grief with her husband. All these people, like
me, strong people, learn people how to talk... She's probably one of
the most knowledgeable women in Australia, I was told, about
Aboriginal culture and how she's tried to keep this fire burning
about culture and pass it down to, say, to her grandchildren and
things. "Look, be proud of yourself. This is your past. Keep your
culture. But you have to move on, and you have to be educated and
live a good life". And that's what she wants. It's going to take time.
Yeah. Until we have people like you to lead your people, then...
After days of frustration, trying to connect with the Kununurra
Housing Department, Homeswest, Mary Good afternoon, Department of
Housing. Hi, it's Doctor Fortune here. Meanwhile, Margaret is on her
way to the clinic for her follow-up appointment. I wanted to speak to
somebody about housing, just to see Yeah, I haven't had any word back
from Homeswest about the housing. I've given them the forms and I've
never heard back from them yet. There is no application... She's
made no application? Right, that's not what I heard from her. Can I
see Doctor Mary again? She was told that if she had a medical letter
for medical grounds that her application would have a bit bigger
clout. OK. So really not good news. OK, listen, thank you very much
indeed for your help. You've been very informative. Thank you. Bye-
bye. This woman said that they have not, categorically, did not receive
an application for housing. So when did you put your formal application
in? I put it in the very next day. So that was over two weeks ago. So
they must... They've got it. I've given it to them. Gave them the
application for housing. I've done all that. So this woman's telling
me that they haven't received it. Mm, so why are they saying that,
cos I did. Well, I think that's something that we have to pursue.
Mmm. In regards to my experience, you can either hit your head, argue
with them, kick your head against the wall, you'll get nowhere. What
you need to do is go down today and put in another housing form. If you
want to get into the queue quicker, that's what you've got to do. So
you need to have someone, a housing advocate, to go in and work with
you on this one. Margaret has mentioned that to me before, but
that's really good advice, Gian, to reinforce that. Because we need to
get to the bottom of this, because it's just wearing away at you a
long time. And my daughter is getting very frustrated with me.
She wants me out of there, too, see, so that she can get on with her
life and be with her partner. I'm sort of in the way so I need to get
out. You know, this is just another story of a very resource-rich state
government, and then the lack of housing stock. I can't... Why these
great grandmothers and grandmothers are basically homeless. They have
to kip in with family. Right. that right, Margaret? Mmm. Homeless.
You're actually homeless, aren't you? And I am one of the
signatories that handed over the, you know, all the old country here
to the state government, the Mirumgudgerum Corporation Committee.
And here we are, you know, they've taken our land and doing all these
new whatever farm that's everything, and we're the people that signed
off, and where we are today, still stuck in the same place,
overcrowding with our people. And yet the Housing tell us there's no
housing for us. It makes you wonder. And all these people with jobs and
everything out here, it's all to the Mirumgudgerum people signing
off to the state government and giving the land away, more-or-less,
for their development. And do you feel now that you wish you hadn't
done that? Yeah, yeah, well in the sense, yeah, we shouldn't have,
because we are still getting nowhere. Government still haven't
fixed up our problems yet on the communities, and all we asked in
life was the three things, that the basic needs of Aboriginal people,
was water, power and housing. not? And no community's ever gotten
that yet. Water, power and housing. You didn't tell me all of this.
Well, now I'm telling you, Doctor Mary. Now you know. Yeah, I needed
to know that. Mmm. I bet you're quite a formidable woman when you
get going. Oh, yeah. Let's see Margaret Moore, eh? Anyway, I have
here your Worxifaxer. When was the This journey has been a bit of a
different journey this time round. Oh, it's a whole different ball
game, really, this time. I mean, it's... Your head just goes round
and round and round the whole time, thinking, why? Why has this
situation got so bad? Why are people living in these conditions?
And I just feel that particularly what's happening here is like... I
can't come to terms with it, because don't know the answers.
I've been told that the government throws money at Aboriginal people
all the time and it's not the way forward. I don't know the answers.
I'm here to learn and to try and formulate some sort of thing in my
brain that explains, or tries to Next, on Doctor Fortune's
Australian Casebook, Mary is out on the front line, witnessing the
alcohol-fuelled destruction of the Aboriginal race. My people are
dying quickly from alcohol and there's nothing to stop it. Mary
goes to rehab... It looks like a workers' camp in the middle of the
desert. But is it too late for the Aboriginal people? We won't be an
A three-part series featuring Highland GP Doctor Mary Fortune as she returns to the Australian outback to work in an Aboriginal clinic for three months.
Just days into her placement, Mary is shocked by the state of Aboriginal healthcare, with many struck down with preventable third world diseases.
Tracing the source of disease takes Mary to a nearby Aboriginal housing estate, or so called 'reserve', where she is appalled by the conditions.