Three-part documentary series. After finding an inebriated patient on her waiting room floor, Doctor Mary Fortune joins the fight against alcoholism among the Aboriginal people.
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Two years ago, Dr Mary Fortune,
an experienced GP from the Scottish Highlands,
promised to return to Australia to work for three months in Aboriginal health care.
Based at an Aboriginal clinic in Kununurra,
Mary soon discovered the shocking state of Aboriginal health,
many struck down with preventable Third-World diseases.
These bugs come into the body, they go down,
get into the heart, bang, time bomb.
And you do wonder how that can happen in a country like this.
She was horrified by the conditions in the Aboriginal housing estates...
I'm really sort of struggling here, to understand how...
how this situation has come about.
..leaving her feeling confused and looking for answers.
Your head just goes round and round and round the whole time,
thinking "Why? Why has this situation got so bad?"
It's early afternoon in the OVAHS clinic,
and Mary is in between surgeries.
Is this guy OK?
Hi there. Hello.
Did he collapse on the floor?
He just went down there.
What's his name?
'So I was quite shocked, because you know, if this was in my surgery at home,'
if somebody was on the floor, somebody would come to the desk
and say, "Excuse me, there's a chap lying on the floor."
And somebody would immediately rush out to check that the chap's breathing and that he's fine,
'and that he's not in trouble.'
What's wrong with you, hey?
It's actually his birthday today
so he's had quite a few drinks this morning.
And nice and cool and a bit quiet in here, so good place to sleep it off.
'Here, it seems that was perfectly acceptable for everybody to
'see this drunk man lying.'
Now, eventually he would have been picked up and taken home, but the fact was
'he'd been lying there for about five minutes.'
Might grab a wheelchair for him, eh?
'Obviously, I can only assume that it is the norm.
'People see it, they accept it, and...'
From a distance, Kununurra, the capital of the vast Kimberley region of Western Australia,
looks like any other small bush town.
Close up, it appears prosperous and comfortable.
For six months of the year, a haven for adventure tourists.
But this town has a major problem.
It's awash with alcohol.
The small, mixed population of 8,000 have three liquor stores to choose from,
two of them drive-through.
The taxi services are on constant standby for booze runs.
Most customers buy in cartons, containing 30 cans of strong beer.
An increase in consumption sees an increase in the through-put of patients
at the OVAHS clinic with alcohol-related problems.
What were you addicted to?
About everything, yeah.
Alcohol, drugs. But mainly alcohol. I was bad.
-How much do you drink?
-Too much, you said.
I was drinking basically a carton, up to two cartons a day.
Which is about, what, 60...
Yeah, 60 VBs, red cans. Whatever I could get my hands on.
Yeah. Just the wine, not beer.
What? 90 cans?
Yeah, I was pretty bad, eh?
-What, in a day?
So you think, by not drinking VB and going onto Moselle wine,
that's better for you?
Is it? Sort of?
-Well, can I tell you, it's not.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are endemic,
with the Aboriginal population hardest hit,
affecting all age groups, including unborn children.
A government report estimates that alcohol-related deaths
can be up to 19 times higher for indigenous Australians.
Since starting work at Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service,
or OVAHS, just four weeks ago, Mary has heard many tragic stories
from patients and Aboriginal staff working at the clinic.
So he wanted to stab me. He wanted to finish me completely.
He grabbed the knife
and he stabbed me in the head.
-In the head?
He had an argument with his family, and they couldn't buy him drink.
So he come back and took it out on me.
My uncle was abusing me.
Used to lock me up in a little shed, and flog me
so hard I used to piss myself and shit myself.
Why was that?
Cos he was an alcoholic, abusive old man himself, and yeah.
First cousin of mine, Golden Glove boxer, he was a welfare case.
He was finally returned home to his mother and his sisters.
Couldn't believe the violence and how they lived,
how he spent the first 18 years of his life quite a different setting,
released or sent back home. You know, you're 18, you're old enough now.
Three months after living with his own family,
in that sort of situation, where there's so much alcohol, not much food, overcrowding,
fight every day of your life, and he's hung himself.
So everyone... This is nothing new. Everyone's got their own little horror story like that.
Coming to grips with the scale of the problem is difficult
for a new doctor, and Mary is keen to see what, if anything, is being done.
In Kununurra, night or day, the party goes on.
SHOUTING AND SINGING
We'll pick up now.
Mary is on the front line, on the nightly patrol bus,
scouring the streets for drunk and vulnerable people.
We're having a bit of food right now.
Right here, this is my brother.
Our people, this is our town, Kununurra.
But in blackfella name is Gananoorrang...
and this is the bus that picks us up.
Run to take us home.
Thank you very much.
The service was set up by Aboriginals,
concerned for the well-being of their own people.
Certainly building up here.
-A lot of tension out there, isn't there?
We've had some wild... wild brawls in this bus.
Committed volunteer and Aboriginal elder, Eric Lawford,
has been in charge of the Sober Up Bus for nine years,
driving and supervising almost every night.
-You must see some terrible sights at times, do you?
-Yeah, we did, I did.
Do you think the situation's worse now than it was nine years ago?
Yeah, it's getting worse.
It's getting worse.
But we do our best.
The Sober Up Shelter is on the edge of town,
and, like the patrol bus, is run by Aboriginal volunteers.
The shelter has very basic facilities
and can only provide accommodation for 16 men and six women.
Without the service,
many could end up in trouble with the authorities.
The local prison population is around 80% indigenous,
with most crimes alcohol-related,
and there is a long history of brutality
and Aboriginal deaths in police custody.
Are you not worried about your nephew in the state that he's in?
Now that you're sounding sober, can you not speak to him? When he's sober?
-HE SPEAKS GIBBERISH
-Ah, nonsense. No, he doesn't, no, no.
He's absolutely sozzled.
The volunteers are totally committed,
but Eric knows full well the limitations of the service.
There's no help when you walk through the back door.
Like you know, for rehab, or, um...
health workers visiting them
during the day or talking to them.
It's got to be people like you, Eric, to say "Look,
"have any of you doctors been down to the Sobering Up Shelter
"to see exactly what's happening?"
-Have any doctors been down?
But you need community psychiatric workers to be there to help them.
I think that something very positive could be done from the OVAHS centre. Yeah.
My God, look at him, walking along the middle of the road. Jesus.
One of the regulars is keen to meet Mary.
Moses Karadada is a known alcoholic,
and familiar face in the Sober Up Shelter.
So we're just here to see what happens when the clients come in.
-Yeah, cup of tea.
-Have a shower.
-Have a cup of tea. Yeah, have a shower...
He comes from the small alcohol-free community of Kalumburu,
300 kilometres away.
Moses, like many of his tribe,
travels to towns like Kununurra, where alcohol is freely available.
-What? Oh, sorry.
How much have you had to drink today?
No, only about...
-Probably a carton.
-A carton. Is that 30 cans?
-Is that a lot for you?
Oh, no, not a lot. Not a lot.
But I realise now I just want to go to...
-Yeah, I understand.
If you can help me out then.
Why don't you, um, come to the OVAHS centre...
And we can check you over, see if your liver is damaged
-and see if we can get you into a rehabilitation unit.
I'm trying my best to go to rebilly... what you call it now?
-Just call it detox. It's easier.
-Detox means taking the poisons out of your body.
-Staying off alcohol.
-I really want to do that.
The day begins at first light.
As the alcoholic haze begins to lift,
last night's drunks come face to face with the real world.
They would just put you in the lock-up for the night?
So really, this place is a safe house, really, for everybody,
-for lots of reasons, yeah.
-This place, yeah.
How are you this morning? Are you feeling rough?
I was too drunk to walk back home.
-You were too drunk?
-Yeah, to walk back home.
The patrons are encouraged to leave by 7am,
to help the staff prepare for the night ahead.
Annie O'Malley has over 20 years' experience working in Aboriginal organisations
and has been the manager here for the last nine months.
And this is the females'. Much nicer, I reckon, the females' one.
Yeah, it's got a little bit of pink.
Yeah, we try and make the ladies' ones a bit nicer
because, I don't know, I reckon the ladies...
-Very basic, but it's a shelter, isn't it, and that's what it is.
A safe haven, yeah.
The Sober Up shelter gets by on a shoestring budget,
but in recent times, the funding has been under huge pressure,
stretching paid staff like Annie to the limit.
The rising costs, everybody's suffering with that,
but the funding body thinks, "Well, we should still give you
"the same amount of money we gave you five, ten years ago."
We're still getting that same amount of money.
It doesn't allow for... Electricity's going up here.
You know, we might need more, you know, warm things.
The men haven't even got a hot water shower
because the solar thing's busted now for nearly two years.
Nobody's been... So nobody's done...
And when you work here as a manager
and you try and, you know, lift things up...
-Who the hell cares?
-Who the hell cares?
The people Annie cares for only care about their next drink,
fifteen minutes' walk away in the centre of town.
Without professional intervention,
the 24-hour cycle starts all over again.
Even as a professional working in the field,
Annie is all too aware of the alcohol demons afflicting her race.
-You were in a very low spot in your life as well, weren't you?
Um, I got to a stage where I was drinking fruity.
-That's that wine, you know, in the cask thing.
8 in Perth, you know, you get that.
And me and my sister-in-law was drinking nearly every day
and one day my son said, I said,
"Oh, anyway, what do you want to take to school?"
And he said, "Why don't I just take your fruity then, Mum," he said.
-"Yeah," he said, "cos we got
-all else in the house."
-How old was he when he said that?
-And he was only ten then. Right.
So that was the turning point?
-And you've been sober for four years?
-Well, I still drink.
Like, I have my occasional drink, yeah, but...
-But you're not an alcoholic.
-No, I'm not letting it rule my life.
Not letting, you know, drink take over.
I still go to work, I still maintain my house,
make sure my kids are fed, you know?
Annie changed her life around on her own, but others need a helping hand.
Mary's brief intervention with Moses has brought him to the clinic.
After a health check with the nurse, Moses is on the prowl,
looking for Mary.
Did you want to have... What did you want to do? Yeah, OK.
Just in here, mate. This is Mary's room.
Oh, here's the man.
-Here's the man.
-How are you?
-I'm fine. Have a seat.
I saw you on...oh, goodness,
Tuesday night at the Sobering Up Shelter.
"Oh, yes, Mrs, I'll come and see you tomorrow."
Well, you're two days late!
-I'm going to give you my watch. It's got a date on it.
-Where have you been?
-The truth is I went to, ah, Glenhill.
-Not Glenhill, Wave Hill.
-And what were you doing there?
Oh, was just...up there for a couple of days.
-Not couple of days, but for a day and...
-And what happened when you were there?
Now... that... but...
-Got a couple of booze, and...
-And you had a good time?
And then I started realising I was, you know, I was a...
-A bad boy.
Do you know, you're just full of flannel, aren't ya?
No, but I made my promise.
You made your promise and you have come,
-and I'm delighted that you've come.
Moses, when was the last time you ever went to a doctor's surgery?
Oh, about, ah, 2000.
Ten years ago, yeah. What was that for?
-Oh, for my abscess. My eye.
So you don't suffer from diabetes, or have any heart problems, or anything?
I had, when I was in prison, I was a big fella,
but had diabetes.
-But I beat that.
Right. So really the main object of you coming today is that we want
to see if we can help you,
because I know that you really want to stop drinking.
-Yes, please. Yeah.
Since his introduction to alcohol as a teenager, Moses has had a troubled
and eventful life, with one incident leaving a brutal legacy.
1983, see my face.
I was driving a car.
Not far from my turn-off, I rolled over
and part of my face got smashed,
and my nose was open.
-That's from alcohol, driving with...
-Yes. Really drunk.
Do you remember the crash?
I killed some people too, but the families here, they forgive me.
-And how do you feel about it now?
-I regret it.
And I apologise for that, for my... What I did.
But it's OK.
That was a long time ago.
But I still got it in my mind.
And I realise.
Moses is one of the lucky ones.
Death from road traffic injury is up to 30% higher for Aboriginals
and is the third most common cause of alcohol-related death
after cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
Dealing with alcohol-related medical issues is time-consuming,
taking doctors away from other needy patients.
But Mary must act quickly to help Moses keep his momentum.
So Moses, I've spoken to Jane and she's going to have a word with you.
-And we're going to get you organised and...
Next door is the Social Support Unit, an integral part of the OVAHS clinic,
and the start of Moses' long journey to sobriety.
-We've got an appointment with Jane.
-So can we just pop through?
-Yeah, just go through.
But even rehabilitation can be a repeat prescription.
-Do you recognise this man?
-Yes, I do.
Jane Beckman is a registered psychiatric nurse,
experienced in rehab and detox referrals.
The vast Kimberley region has only two small rehab units,
and Jane can liaise with them to find Moses a suitable placement,
both knowing it's a 13-week, alcohol-free commitment.
Yep, no, that's... Good on you, Moses, that's great.
-Be a role model for your community.
This is the million dollar question. What is the waiting time?
Well, usually, it's sort of around about three weeks,
but that's from when you have the telephone interview.
So it's about a week or a week and a half
between when we put the referral in
and they talk to you on the telephone.
And then after that it's usually around three or four weeks, I find.
-But it could be longer, could be shorter.
You'll definitely get a place, but like I said to you...
-My people are dying quickly from alcohol.
And there's nothing to stop them, you know?
-It's important to get things moving as quick as possible.
OK, sir. Thank you very much, Jane. That was really helpful.
But Moses has another surprise.
He's from a family of famous tribal artists.
-That's my... That's my auntie.
-Lily. That's the wandjina.
-They're spirit people, aren't they, Moses, yeah.
But Lily's a very famous artist.
-She's in some of the biggest galleries in the world.
-Can you paint?
-I can paint. Can you? Yeah.
-Are you famous?
I'm not really famous like my auntie.
Would you do a painting for me?
-I can do it, if you want to.
-Thank you. That would be fantastic.
Thanks. Listen, cheers. Thank you very much. That's great.
-Another problem solved.
-OK, Moses. Good on ya.
-Come with me, sir.
Moses may have up to four weeks of drinking time left
before the start of rehab.
-Is there no way of speeding it up?
-Well, we wish.
-He would go in tomorrow.
That would be ideal, but they...
I suppose to some extent, if people have a bit of a wait time,
they have to really make up their mind they're serious about it.
But easier access would be a benefit.
Nobody knows how many Aboriginals live in Kununurra,
but estimates range from 1,000 to 3,000.
Many, like Moses, drift around looking for cheap, strong alcohol,
an increasing problem for the small bush town, beginning decades ago.
The town of Kununurra is only 50 years old, built to service
a massive irrigation project in the mid '60s.
Keeping pace with the progress of the Ord Diversion Dam
is the town of Kununurra, a native word meaning big waters.
Its homes are cool and modern, and its people, much the same.
The futuristic project attracted the attentions of international figures
of the day, but was seen by others as an act of social
and environmental vandalism.
The flooding dispossessed and dislodged
the Aboriginal communities, forcing them off their land.
The new incomers transformed the region, promising wealth
and prosperity, as hailed by Robert Menzies,
the Prime Minister of the day.
This is the most exciting place in Australia at this moment.
The propaganda films sold the dream of a privileged, affluent community.
But after 50 years of growth and expansion, many Aboriginals
and their communities, who make up half the population,
remain locked in a cycle of social depravation.
The chief executive of the OVAHS clinic
knows he is now dealing with the end results.
The collective needs of Aboriginal people
have been left and left and left.
I mean, I think that there was an ABC Four Corners report in 1970...
In the late '70s, where it said, "Look at this," and there were men,
women and children sitting there with absolutely nothing, with not a...
With a bit of tin over their heads, and it was just, "Oh, right,
"well, that's the Aboriginal people. This is how they are."
Cos there's still people living in Third-World conditions today,
you know what I mean? You still have people living in, you know, a shed.
40 years of poor housing, bad health, mass unemployment,
welfare handouts and social exclusion
amid prosperous surroundings has created a lethal cocktail,
leaving the health care workers of today to pick up the pieces.
Mary is on her way to visit one of the rehab units
in the small, remote town of Wyndham, in East Kimberley,
115 kilometres north of Kununurra.
Here we are. Oh, my God.
This can't be the right place, is it?
It looks like a workers' camp, in the middle of the desert.
Can you imagine arriving here for detox?
"Intoxicated persons will not be allowed access to the centre."
The unit was purpose-built in the mid '90s to help stem
the growing alcohol epidemic.
Since opening, the unit has struggled for funding
and been forced to shut on several occasions.
I have to say, I was a bit shocked when I saw it.
The centre is now undergoing a major facelift
and adding a much-needed specialist detox unit
under the guidance of manager, Kathy Broadbent.
It isn't a boot camp. What's happened is we've had major refurbishment done.
It's been going on for the last two years. So in a way, it is like...
It's a working camp, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I'm assuming it's predominantly indigenous people that you have coming through this unit.
Yeah, 99% indigenous.
I mean, this facility covers the whole of the East Kimberley.
That's what I was...
And in the Kimberly, you've got the highest addiction rate
probably in the whole of Australia.
-So why has it taken this length of time for people to say,
"Let's have a detox unit on our doorstep so that we can let people, you know, not have to go..."
It has taken... It's been too long, yes.
What is the success rate, truly?
What is the success rate of detox the first time in your...?
I worked in rehab detox in Alice Springs
and I'd say the first time, first time, about 5%.
-The idea is actually there's got to be some hope at the end of it.
-Oh, yes, never ever give up.
You've got to actually keep that ahead of you, in front of you,
at all times and think that there have been people here
that actually have come through.
Aiming to be one of Wyndham's 5% success stories
is 22-year-old Leah Kingsley.
Leah has travelled to the OVAHS Clinic for a series of blood tests
relating to personal issues and a general consultation.
-And you're in Wyndham?
-Yeah, Wyndham settlement.
So what are you doing there?
Well, I'm trying to get my life back on track.
Like stop drinking and smoking.
I just started to realise that, you know, I started getting these pains
sometimes in my heart, you know, just slight little thing.
And I knew something was wrong, you know.
Leah is part of a growing band of disaffected young Aboriginal people.
The story of her life is a familiar theme to OVAHS health care workers -
drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse and violence.
-Were you fighting?
-And plus that too.
-Did you do a lot of fighting?
-Yeah, they said I punched a policeman.
-Can you remember that?
-I can't remember doing it,
but that's what they said I'd done, you know, when I was drunk.
But I didn't know what I was doing, you know.
-Do you regret that now?
Leah's chaotic life reached a critical point
with the loss of an unborn child.
-How many weeks pregnant were you?
-13 weeks, they said.
-And how do you feel?
-I felt angry and everything.
-Soon as my mum passed away I wanted to suicide, you know?
I tried that two times.
One, I wanted to hang myself.
Wanted to overdose...in the shower.
You know, locked myself in there and took all the tablets.
Then ring the doctor, everything, ambulance.
So you actually took the tablets, yeah?
-I was on the ground when they bust through the door, you know.
So you've really had a hell of a life so far, haven't you?
But you know, the very positive thing
is that you have taken it upon yourself
to ask or to be offered rehab,
and now you've taken that opportunity up.
And, you know, this is not going to be easy. You know that, don't you?
It's not going to be easy,
but YOU have got the determination to do it, haven't you?
You're going to have me crying too, honey.
You take your time.
Do you know, that's...
You're not meant to make the doctor cry!
Yeah, I never told anybody about this, you know.
Have you never spoken about this before?
But you know, it's a very, very good thing to talk about things.
And sometimes it's really difficult, you know,
-to open your heart to a complete stranger.
And, you know, what you've done today is,
you must be one very strong lady to be able to do that.
Leah will have to return soon for the results of her tests,
but in the meantime, Mary can offer further support.
I don't want to feel as if I'd be intruding,
but I could come up and visit you in Wyndham,
-if that would be all right.
That'll be good.
'I was very moved, because I was thinking,
'"Here's a lassie, she's only 15 when this started,"'
"and I know that there's thousands of people like her."
It's this way. Here we go.
'I'd really like to make her feel special as an individual,
'you know, because I don't think she's ever felt special in her life
'and, you know, sometimes you have to just go the extra mile
'with people to make them feel comfortable,
'to make them feel that people are actually interested in them.
'And to give 'em that encouragement and say, "Look, well done.
'"Keep going. You can do it."'
Leah is not alone in her struggle.
Mary has met many others desperately trying to keep their demons at bay.
-I was a... I was an alcoholic myself.
But I gave it up, all that.
I just chuck it away, because my grandchildren came up.
I made my mind up and just said, "No, I'm not drinking any more."
I stopped. That was three years ago.
-So you actually did your own detox?
-Yeah, by myself.
The only way that you're going to...make things brighter
and bigger is change yourself.
And that's what I believe in.
The future can only be changed if we change ourselves.
I want to go home and have another bucket now.
Kill my hangover.
-Have you got a hangover?
-Yeah, I've got a hangover.
-Did you drink throughout your pregnancies?
And smoked drugs through my pregnancy,
right up till I went into the labour ward.
The OVAHS clinic is facing another alcohol epidemic,
but this time the victims are innocent unborn babies.
OVAHS is one of the first clinics in Australia
to tackle Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
and have a dedicated programme reaching out to pregnant mothers.
There we go.
Visiting paediatrician, Dr Sheveta Patel
and her colleagues run a monthly clinic.
Many of their patients, like this two-year-old boy,
are brain-damaged as a consequence of the condition.
You're doing a grand job in looking after him.
'His mother drank very heavily in pregnancy,'
his mother, biological mother,
had actually been murdered by her partner,
and he's now being raised by his biological grandmother
'and her partner.'
How many words is he saying?
Maybe he might be putting three together.
'Fortunately he's come into a very good home
'and he's getting all the stimulation he needs,
'and his development is progressing quite well, despite his condition.'
-He says hello.
-So we'll plan that we see you again in probably three to six months.
-That'd be great.
'So this is a condition that's prevalent in this region
'which we're trying to target and reduce the future frequency of.'
Hey, look what happened to me.
I had a baby overnight, ladies.
-What age did you have your babies?
-I started when I was 17.
-And I was 18.
My two eldest ones are 11 months apart.
Gee, that's close.
What, is there no good telly in Kununurra?
No, I was out in a remote community.
And there's no telly!
There's nothing else to do out there, eh?
You know, you've just gone slightly pink.
-Don't ever do that
For those already growing up in a world of social mayhem
and addiction, bereft of leadership and good example,
the road ahead is unbearably predictable.
I've got a cousin that comes here. He's younger than me, looks old.
And that's what I say to him. I say, "Why do you drink, bub?"
"Oh, man's business, eh?" You know.
So just brushes us aside, stuff like that. And I don't want to see that.
I don't want to see any of my kids come to this place, you know?
-That's why I want to see change before
but I don't think that'll happen.
This'll still be the same in another 20 years.
Why is it still the same? I mean...
Yeah, look, before, when I was younger, my mum was never a drinker.
Nor was my father. Them two wasn't drinkers.
I've noticed that Kununurra has become a place where,
I don't know, all our young kids want to be either gangsters, drinkers.
If they don't drink straight rum, you're not a man, you know?
This is the thing that happens out there. I've got a 16-year-old son.
I had to take him when he was 15.
They nearly killed him, making him drink straight rum.
And I said to him, "What was you doing?"
And he said, "Oh, but I want to be like them, Mum." "What, dead?"
He said, "No, I can go and hang myself to do that."
Almost half of Aboriginal suicides are alcohol-related,
and Aboriginal males are 35 times more likely
to take their own lives than their non-indigenous counterparts,
with the average age of suicide just 28.
Since Mary's started work at the OVAHS clinic,
she has experienced several days
when the Aboriginal staff and patients failed to appear.
But chairwoman of the OVAHS board, Myrtle Ward, is the exception.
Each and every one of us are relative. We all relative.
-We all relations.
Extended family, and people from all over the Kimberleys come in
and pay their respect to the person that has passed away.
And as you know, since you've been here,
-we've had lots and lots of funerals.
-Oh, it's been tragic.
But everybody is related to somebody in this community,
and it's only the respect that we show
as Aboriginal people to one another.
Is there a timescale where you must be...?
Grieving don't stop there. Grieving still continues on.
-On and on.
-And they usually stay for four, five to ten rains, you got.
You can't call this person's name for five to ten rains.
And if you got a nickname for that person that's passed on,
then you just use the nickname.
-But you grieve all along. You never stop grieving, my dear.
-Never stop. You never stop grieving.
I lost a son.
It's ten years since I lost my baby, my son, through suicide.
There's never a day goes by that I don't stop grieving for him.
But he has a birthday, and he has a date of death.
The date of death is the saddest time for me. Except for his birthday.
We celebrate his birthday. He has two children who celebrate his birthday.
They share his chocolate cake every year.
-I've never stopped grieving for him.
-Life goes on. We in the world must go on.
Life does carry on.
But for Mary, it's another familiar face from her night out.
There we go, sir. Now then...
Did you fall on this?
My daughter hit me.
Your daughter hit you? Oh, God, what did she hit you with, an axe?
What do you call them, for when you get your tucker?
-Mm-hm. Your tucker?
-Yeah, that's it.
What, a knife?
-What, a metal plate?
-Yeah, that's right.
A frying pan? She hit you with a frying pan?!
Um, Archie. Is that you?
-You're Archie? Hi, I'm Dr Fortune.
Why don't you come in there, Archie. Through, you come.
Burst your brains.
He hit me with a bar.
He hit you with a metal bar four times on the head?
-I stopped it. That's why my fingers are not...
Did you fall or did you injure yourself?
Yeah, probably fell over drunk.
You fell over drunk? At least you're an honest man!
Yeah, but once you've got this, and really froth it up,
and give it a really good soak.
And it'll take some of that scabby stuff off,
and then we can have a look at it for you.
You've got some nice bruises under your eye. What have you been up to?
-Beer can full thrown in me face.
-A beer can?
At the end of a busy day,
Mary has been alerted to another injury, outside in the grounds.
Well, Moses, my man. How are you?
-Oh, I was in a brawl.
-In a brawl?
-Yeah, got kicked.
-Oh, jeez, that looks terrible.
It's over two weeks since Moses last visited the clinic.
It was rumoured in town he had fled Kununurra
and gone back to his community.
No, he hit me with a stick.
Watch your foot there.
But like most alcoholics, they tend to turn up unexpectedly.
You've been like the Scarlet Pimpernel, you know, you.
You were meant to come and see me.
Yeah, but now I had the courage to come
because I was sick on those days.
-Yeah, but, now I got courage to come and see you.
-Where's my picture?
-Where's my picture?
-Are you still doing my painting?
-I'm still doing it.
I hope so, because I'm really looking forward
to taking it home to Scotland.
He's been drinking heavily last night,
and he was involved in a fight.
Somebody's hit him on the left side of the neck with a bar.
He's got a wee cut, nothing significant on his hand,
but he's also been hit, I think, on the knee.
-Yes, my knee, yeah.
-Yeah, roll your leg up and we'll have a look.
It's swollen and it's pain.
Were you hit by a bar on that leg as well?
-Yeah. Just lift your leg up.
-Where does it hurt, Moses?
Did you damage him?
Yeah, he's got a bruise on his face somewhere.
I don't know.
What was the fight about?
Oh, you know, just about alcohol.
You're in a right old mess. Come here, you.
-You're very sore.
It's so sad, because I think you're in a worse state now
than he was when we saw you at the sobering up shelter.
Moses, if you carry on in this way, you're going to die.
-You know that?
-I know that.
And fighting in that state,
-you could have been killed.
-Yeah, but I made up my mind now.
-I want to go.
-You have to.
Do you know, I feel this is a great day for you.
Thank you. I'm ready for me to do it.
It's official - Moses IS now on the rehab waiting list,
but for a centre he prefers,
out of reach of his drinking cronies in Broome,
over 1,000 kilometres away.
-What's the waiting list? There seems to be a wait.
-There is a bit of a...
At this time of year, it's difficult. There's probably about three-month waiting list in Broome,
so that is a long wait, but like I said, we'll support you while you're waiting, yep. OK?
Do you know what I was thinking? They do have spaces at Wyndham.
-Wait a wee minute. I know you don't want to go to Wyndham.
But wait a wee minute. But even if you went there,
if we got you in there until they had a space in Broome...
Something like that's been done before.
It would help you till there is availability in Broome.
Yeah. We'll see about that.
I promise you, if you send me tomorrow, I will go.
Moses will know within days
if the Wyndham centre can find a place for him.
Meanwhile, Mary's other patient, Leah,
already in the early stages of rehab in Wyndham,
is back to see her, and get the results of her tests.
So I've got a few things...to do.
Your results are fantastic.
-Everything's good, so that should put your mind at ease.
-So that's great.
-I feel all right now.
You look great. You look really good.
Where's that inner strength coming from?
I mean, is it just...? Do you just feel it...?
-Yeah, I keep telling myself, you know?
You made me feel welcome to talk to you
and just like I could open, you know?
-You made good friend now.
-Good friends, yeah.
But the other thing is, the important thing for me,
is to listen to the patient,
and not moralise, you know,
and then take steps forward
to where we can help people.
-And you feel better, and I feel better as well.
OK. Well, listen, I'll be in touch with you.
Doctors dealing with patients with addiction problems
are aware they are always on the cusp of success...
Oh, Harry. Harry, Harry!
What a mess.
Are you all right sitting there?
remember you were here two weeks ago?
-And you'd been hit on the head with a frying pan.
And now, last night, hit me with a broom.
With a broom?
-Who hit you?
A family member? Oh, right.
Has he done this before to you?
Yeah, I was playing guitar and all this.
Oh, Harry. This wound has got a lot of swelling underneath it
and now because the wound is so old,
it's going to be very difficult
to actually put stitches in that.
Is it tender around your scalp area?
A bit of pain.
All right, mate, we'll leave this one there,
and I'll take you up to the hospital in about five minutes.
It's been a difficult four weeks for Mary,
grappling with the complexities and unpredictability of patients with addiction,
hoping that the interventions with HER rehab patients bear fruit.
But Moses' social worker, hot off the phone from the rehab centre in Wyndham,
has some urgent news.
-Oh, hi there. In you come.
I'm thinking about you and our mutual pal, Moses.
I wanted to come and talk to you about him.
Moses had been there before on another occasion
and there'd been a bit of a problem because he'd been
sneaking into the women's area where the women's quarters were.
So they're a bit reluctant to have him back again at this stage,
-because he is quite a character...
-Oh, he's very charismatic.
Yeah, that's right. So they just thought
perhaps not at this point in time.
-What a rascal, eh?
-Yes, yes, he is a rascal.
So he's not allowed to go to Wyndham?
Is that a good reason not to commit again, though?
Well, not really. Yeah, but then that's up to those guys, yeah.
We can't really make that call.
But Moses also... It's not just that.
Moses has a reputation for being
you know, a trickster and a bit cheeky...
so everybody wants everything settled
if he's going to come into the picture, because he's...
He's just full of life, you know. He is, yeah.
That's a shame, because that's his personality.
A lot of people do like to have fun and a laugh.
Well, you know, he's still never come up with my painting.
-No, that's right.
-He went off with the canvas and the paints and...
He would have sold it.
No, he would have sold it if he'd done a painting!
Well, that's what we reckon he's done!
That'd be what he'd do.
-OK, Jane. Listen, thanks for your help yet again.
-If he does appear, give me a shout.
It's another blow for Moses,
let down by the inadequacies of the rehab system.
But did he keep his promise to Mary?
Tell me what happened?
Somebody stole it?
Are you sure you've painted this in the first place?
But Moses apparently did keep his side of the bargain,
as discovered in the local Aboriginal art centre.
He's gone, "Oh, shivers, I've lost the painting.
"Better do another one. Where can I get a canvas?
"I'll go down to Waringarri Arts, get a canvas and I'll paint it,
"and it'll stay there until those film guys come back."
If you think about that whole story about the Wandjina
and the power of it and the wet season and the storms,
this captures that. We're about to get some storms soon.
This is what it looks like.
So I think Moses was trying to do something that
I guess was really special and important to him.
-It does look a little bit basic to the untrained eye.
But all great art, and certainly the best of indigenous art,
there's a lot of power and energy in it. If you sit with a painting for long enough, you can feel that.
You take your time over an artwork it'll talk to you about what IT'S got to say.
So I think that's what Moses is doing here.
I haven't pulled this out from that day, but I'm going to sit with it this afternoon
and see where he was at when he was doing it.
COMPUTER-GENERATED MUSIC PLAYS
This must be the worst music on the telephone I've ever heard.
With Moses' future on hold, Mary turns her attention to Leah,
now into her third week in the Wyndham rehab.
-'Good morning, Cath speaking.'
-Hi, Cath, it's Mary Fortune.
We have a mutual client called Leah.
-'Leah Kingsley, I think.'
And I've seen her several times
here at the OVAHS clinic
and I wanted to see if I could make an arrangement with her
to follow her up at Wyndham in the rehab unit with you,
if that would be possible.
'It is impossible.
'We would have no problem with that,
'but Leah left. Leah's actually discharged herself last Sunday.'
'Very upsetting, really, because she was really doing quite well.'
Goodness. I can't believe that.
-'I know, I know.
-What a blow, eh?'
She discharged herself from the rehab clinic on Sunday.
There's no reason as to why she's left.
It's a bit of a blow, really,
because I thought that she was doing really well.
I'm sure... I've got a feeling that's where she'll go.
It may be that she's fine and that she thinks,
"I've done it in three weeks." But in fact the course is 13 weeks,
so she's being pretty super woman if she's done that.
But we need to find out why she's left and to try and trace her
and to say, "Look, we're here to help, you know."
Since filming, attempts have been made to find Leah,
but without success.
Outside the care of the rehab centre, she faces an uncertain future.
Aboriginal women are 33 times more likely to experience assault
than their non-indigenous counterparts, and one third of her age group
will die before reaching 45.
Indigenous men and women
die up to 20 years earlier than other Australians...
..and Aboriginal children are dying at more than three times
the rate of non-indigenous children.
We have to do something now because I tell you,
there won't be an Aboriginal race any more. There won't.
It'll just die out. We will die out. You know what?
If I was someone that didn't want Aboriginal people here, I'd just wait.
Just wait. They'll be gone in a couple of... You know?
Next on Doctor Fortune's Australian Casebook...
..a day out at the rodeo,
and Mary discovers the real history of Aboriginal cowboys...
Some people say they worked there as slaves, because they just worked for tea and sugar.
As people say, "We worked for tea and sugar."
..and takes a chance on the outcome of the Aussie election...
Got a wee bet on...
and we'll wait and see what happens.
..finding out how Australia's first people vote...
I'm hoping there's a bus picking some of them up, rounding them up.
..and cracks under the pressure as she comes to terms
with the plight of the Aboriginal people.
I can't talk to ya.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
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.
After finding an inebriated patient on her waiting room floor, Mary goes out on the front line to join the fight against the alcohol-fuelled destruction of many Aboriginal people. In the local 'sober up' shelter Mary meets Moses Karandada, a mischievous alcoholic with a dark secret, desperate to change his life around.