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Two years ago, Doctor 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.
She witnessed first-hand the drug and alcohol fuelled disintegration of Aboriginal life and culture...
My people are dying quickly from alcohol.
And there's nothing to stop it.
..leaving Mary 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?"
On arrival in Australia, Mary's mission generated great political interest
when she was delighted to meet the Deputy Premier to discuss her work.
And, as she approaches her final three weeks,
the Australian government announce a surprise general election.
Not being allowed to vote, Mary finds her own way to get involved.
You can see it's a photo finish.
I put a wee bet on and we'll wait and see what happens.
But do you know, medicine and politics go hand in hand.
I'm not enjoying myself,
but you know, as a doctor, I'm experiencing something that
I would never have had the opportunity to experience had I stayed at home in my cosy surgery.
Swallow? Clever you. Oh, well done.
It pushes your boundaries to the limit.
It pushes your emotions to the limit.
Sores around the ears and then the back there, and there's a runny ear here as well.
I mean, if you think every day's a struggle for you,
what the hell is it like for these people out there that have got these problems?
You know, my life's a breeze in comparison.
I'm a privileged person, you know? I'm one of the lucky ones.
Aboriginal life expectancy can be up to 20 years less than non-indigenous Australians.
How are you today?
Good? Well, if you're good, why are you at the doctor's?
Almost half of Aboriginal men, and over a third of Aboriginal women, will die before the age of 45.
The Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service Clinic, or OVAHS, was opened in 1983, to cater for
the specific needs of Aboriginals, although its doors are open to everyone, black or white.
-Is this your big sister you're here with?
At that time, Aboriginal people were just emerging from a suppressed and brutal past.
One of the founding members of the clinic, Frank Chulung, lived through it.
The way they've treated Aboriginal people is really bad.
I've treated my dog better.
but that was the way of life.
The shocking state of indigenous health was one of the main concerns
of a radical group of Aboriginal activists in the '70s and '80s.
as a member, Frank went on to use his experience and political muscle to do something about it.
So in 1983, I decided to get a medical service up and running here,
and at that time we all believed that, from the National Aboriginal Conference
that represented, we all believed that we should bring
Aboriginal people up to local, state, national and international levels.
And I guess to some extent we have achieved something like that now.
But after three decades of working flat out,
the state of Aboriginal health has barely improved,
leaving those now in charge under extreme pressure.
We 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 here.
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.
Although the clinic has no appointment system, elderly patients
are given priority if their medical state is deemed an emergency.
What do you think about going to hospital?
Mary decides this old lady is an emergency,
and may need hospitalisation.
-Yeah. Are you very busy?
-But first, she has to check with the local hospital to find a bed space.
I have a patient who's probably very well known to you, called Linda Cameron.
She's a 71-year-old lady who suffers from COPD...
Linda Cameron's carer, Veronica, has become increasingly anxious about Linda's living conditions.
Believing it's no longer safe to leave Linda at home, she has
brought her directly to the clinic in an attempt to find a solution.
And I'll take a list of her medicines for you right away. Thank you
very much, Erik. Thank you. See you. Bye, bye.
He says, "I know that lady."
So that's fine.
Things at home are not good, are they?
Things... People that are meant to be looking after you aren't looking after you as well as they should,
and from what I hear, I think it's important that we put you into hospital and care for you for
a few days, to give you a few days' break from the chaos at home and then see how things are.
Mary became familiar with Linda's home circumstances when
two weeks earlier, she arrived at the clinic in a frail state.
After a further examination today, Mary believes her condition has deteriorated,
not just from infection but domestic circumstances.
And the only course of action,
to move her from her own home.
This is a lifeline for them
because they don't like going to hospital unless they have to.
Linda here doesn't want to go to hospital, but she knows
she'll feel better when she comes out after a few days.
It'd just be so nice if these elderly people, who are meant to be respected individuals
of the community were cared and looked after in a tender, loving and supportive environment.
I mean, my God, that's what every human being needs.
It's a human right, that they should have proper housing, proper sanitation, people who care for them.
When I look at how my mother lives, and how Linda lives, there is just no comparison.
Many Aboriginals live on designated estates, or so called "reserves" in and around Kununurra.
Mary had previously visited a nearby estate to see for herself.
It's like a ghetto, really. It's like a rural slum.
I would not be able to sustain that type of living myself as a younger person.
I mean, can you imagine being plucked out of our home and put
into their home at the age of 71, with illnesses, etcetera etcetera, how would you feel?
How would you cope?
No bed, no change of clothes, 20 people, 30 people
coming through your home like a train every night, stealing your food.
Cats and dogs around, broken windows, people breaking in.
I mean, how the hell would you be able to live, like that?
It's deplorable, it's despicable. It's shameful.
-It's Doctor Mary. Remember I saw you in the clinic this afternoon?
How are you feeling tonight?
Fine. I'm relaxed.
I think you're a familiar face here, aren't you, darling?
It's unbelievable and I've seen that time and time again.
Line of tragedy coming in that door at the OVAHS.
Every single one of them has tragedy written on their forehead before you even look at their notes.
Is that better? And you know, these are Linda's notes.
She's 71, so she's done pretty well.
But there's notes this thick on people who are 30, 40 years old with chronic disease.
Why should that be?
Why should it be?
I'm sorry, I'm getting angry, but that's
It's just shocking.
To help ease the stresses and strains, Mary looks forward to
her daily contact with her family, half-way around the globe.
Look at you! What are you doin' with that hat on?
G'day, Bruce, how're you doin', mate?
-Are you havin' good weather there or what?
Are you going to put that in your case?
After almost 11 weeks of living apart, Mary's husband, Alistair,
has decided to fly out and help her through the last few days of her placement.
Well, I wish you were coming this weekend.
'So do I. So do I.'
'I'm lonely! Will you get a bottle of champagne or something into the fridge? A wee bottle of wine?'
No, there'll be a couple of bottles of champagne in the fridge.
There's just too much to tell you but believe you me, it has been
-'I know that.'
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
'Was it worse than you originally expected it to be?'
I don't think anything would prepare you for this, Alistair, to be honest.
-'It sounds pretty dire.'
-Oh, it is.
'Can you hear Mum?'
Oh, tell him I love him and I miss him.
-'Don't be too late in getting home.'
-OK. I love you, darling.
-'I love you.'
-I love you.
-'I'll speak to you soon. Hopefully tomorrow. OK?'
Love you. Bye.
-You're a big fella.
-They said down here.
Just to the left now, along here.
You're some man, Charlie.
You've got gout.
You've had a broken ankle, you've had a broken tibia, you've had a broken fibula.
You've got two knee replacements, You've got multiple fractures in
both hands, you've fractured your lower back.
Is there anything else?
-Front teeth are all gone.
-Your front teeth. OK.
-And up here.
And how did you do that?
-I hit a tree.
And that's all due to rodeo?
The Kununurra Rodeo is one of the biggest events of the year,
and provides a much needed distraction for Mary from the pressures of the OVAHS clinic.
The two-day event is a display of traditional skills
learned during the early days of colonisation, when sheep and cattle were imported in vast quantities.
Due to their skills with animals and knowledge of the land, many Aboriginals were taken on
as cattle hands and worked side by side with their white counterparts, which has stood the test of time.
Today's skilled horseman and wranglers come from all over Australia,
including one of the top stars, local boy Aaron Griffiths.
Aaron, good on you Aaron.
You got your licence,
and Harry Wilson.
I see you've got a prize in your pocket there. What'd you get?
-Ah, second place in the bullride.
I mean, there's some big beasts there.
Yeah, they're pretty good, yeah.
So is this bull riding and horse riding and rodeo and station stuff go way back into your family history?
Yeah. Well, I've been ringing for the last... Ever since I was 13.
-Ringing, does that mean mustering, riding horses?
-Riding horses, yeah.
-So it's in your blood.
My grandfather and his father did it, and now all my sons are doing it,
-and my grandchild's doing it.
-So you're doing it.
50 years ago, it wasn't done for sport.
Living and working in the cattle industry had few pleasures.
Well, I worked out on the cattle station,
Newry Cattle Station back in 1956, when I was 16,
and I seen how the Aboriginal people at them stations were treated.
Another thing I could tell you that you really wouldn't think had happened to Aboriginal people, that
women used to be raped, Aboriginal women used to be raped by white men at will.
I've never known anybody to be charged with sexual assault, or rape, you know, right until about 1972.
Even as late as the 1960s, many Aboriginals were considered to be the property of the landowners.
They were working as labourers,
to put it mildly. I mean, some people say they worked there as slaves
because they just worked for nothing.
They were fed
and that's about it.
So tea and sugar, as people say. We worked for tea and sugar.
In 1967 a national referendum was held, giving Aboriginals basic human rights,
removing them from their previous status of flora and fauna.
Two years later, an equal pay act was introduced,
forcing white landowners to up the wages for Aboriginals,
from tea and sugar to the going rate.
Imagine what happens if people leave the farm or cattle station.
Has about 50 or 100, or maybe even only 30 Aboriginal people working there for nothing
and suddenly they would have to pay the same wages they would pay to their white farm hands.
What happens? They got laid off.
And that's just exactly what happened. That's what drove the people into towns.
They have no idea how to live in houses.
They have no introduction to so called civilisation that the white people brought in.
Suddenly there were shops, there was alcohol, there was western lifestyle.
And people were dumped into that.
In a way, I was surprised when I first arrived here, and people said
"Oh, the good old days when we still worked on the station," they said.
Oh, come on, you worked as slaves.
What good old days are you talking about?
But people said, "Yeah, but yeah, there was no drinking and we had a job,
"we knew what to do and in the wet season we had a holiday time
"so we left our stuff behind and we went bush again
"for a few months, then came back and worked on the station again."
People refer to that as a good time.
They are aware that on some stations, you were mistreated.
You were probably beaten.
And yet, if you ask the old people,
well, they have some nostalgic feelings about those times.
Because now, they are surrounded by our modern life problems
and it seems it has an even stronger impact on people.
Since leaving his job as stockman and cattle wrangler 40 years ago,
Alan Griffiths is now famous for his work as an artist and painter.
During Mary's stint at the OVAHS clinic, Alan has become one of her regular patients.
It's still ticking, that's the important thing.
I can see a kangaroo up there on the top of the hill.
Say that again? Say it slowly for me.
I think you got it a wee bit quick there.
-What'd you say?
-I can see a kangaroo fella up on the hill there.
I can see a kangaroo up the top of the hill there.
Alan has invited Mary to his place of work, the Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre, on the edge of town.
-You must be Cathy.
-Hi, Mary, how are you?
-At last we've got here.
-Terrific. Well, here's Alan at work.
You look much more comfortable sitting there than you do in the surgery, that's for sure.
So this is your expertise?
You know that I met your grandson at the rodeo?
He can certainly sit on a horse and a bull, can't he?
He learned that from his grandad, did he?
-Got a little bit of style from me, I think.
-What did he say?
-He's got style from him.
I would say he has, actually.
As a community elder and custodian of Aboriginal culture,
Alan is keen for all white visitors
to see first hand what the gallery is trying to achieve.
-So this was a story?
-It was a dream he had?
Yes, he had a dream and that dream was then
-transferred into a performance, which he now paints.
Alan and curator, Cathy Cummins believe that many
Aboriginal traditions and ways of life are vanishing.
What the senior artists have been asking us
to do for quite a while is, and this is across the Kimberley too,
is to film them, to video them, to document what they have to say,
document their stories.
They are so well aware of what's happening to the generations
below them and their hope is that these recordings will be held.
When someone's ready to look at them, they'll be there.
It's not only damaging to the young people in this community,
it's damaging to the knowledge base of Australia.
We're losing that because we're not listening enough.
The losing of knowledge, the losing of culture,
the losing of recognition
-and if it's not archived, you've lost it.
The Kimberley region is rich in Aboriginal history,
dating back more than 40,000 years.
But the stories and events since colonisation, just 200 years ago,
are equally important to preserve, no matter how painful.
Fire Fire Burning Bright,
a true story of brutality, racism and murder,
goes straight to the heart of the difficult relationship between black and white
and was brought to prominence by senior Aboriginal elder
and cultural custodian, Peggy Patrick.
I've read all about you and it's just clicked who you are.
I've read about you in Fire Fire Burning Bright.
The story goes,
a group of around 12 Aboriginal men, including Peggy's father,
were falsely accused of stealing a cow.
They were chained and frogmarched to a remote cattle station.
The men were forced to chop wood in preparation for their own funeral pyre.
They were poisoned with strychnine
and then bludgeoned and shot at close range...
Their half-dead bodies then thrown on the blazing pyre.
Peggy's work has become so popular and far-reaching
she recently became one of the few Aboriginals to be awarded
one of the country's most prestigious honours,
the Order of Australia.
You're an amazing woman, Peggy Patrick.
Peggy and Alan Griffiths have worked tirelessly for conciliation between black and white.
Some time, you're going to be like that.
And over the last 50 years, tensions have eased.
Would you like to come in? You got a wee present there for me?
The mix of black and white patients at the clinic
gives Mary a snapshot of today's race relations.
To me, it doesn't matter if your skin's black, white or yellow,
we're the same, we all get sick, we've all got a heart.
So, yeah, it doesn't make any difference to me.
-Makes a difference to some people in this town, doesn't it?
The majority of them don't work, they will never work, they don't want to work,
whereas I've worked all my life and paid my taxes.
They're getting away with murder, black fellas.
They're getting far too much money.
And it's not this generation's fault either,
it's the generation before them and before them and before. They've had no education.
They come in the roadhouse drunk and smash things.
Yeah, that's bad, but the majority of people, they're good.
Yeah. It's when they get on the piss a bit and like any white man too.
But some Aboriginal and mixed-race patients have a more discerning view.
Australia's got a habit of being known as a polite racism country.
There's nothing polite about racism.
There's also nothing polite about the genocide that's happening in these regions.
I think that that's... a lot of people don't see that.
They think, well no, this is not a form of genocide,
and so genocide comes in different ways.
I think what we're seeing here is a genocide in all different ways.
Yeah. It's pretty evident when you see what's happening here
with patients coming through
and I do think sometimes, it must be very difficult for white Australians
not to want to perhaps recognise that this is
happening in their own backyard.
-Good morning, this is AM, I'm Tony Eastley on the last full day at election campaigning.
Well, it worked for the Conservative Party in the UK earlier this year, and now...
Goodness, what a crowd of folks.
This is the leisure centre in Kununurra,
which is the polling booth today,
THE most important day of the year really, for Australians,
voting for the new Prime Minister.
Voting in Australia is compulsory.
But, I don't have a vote, so I'm not going to get into trouble.
Winning full citizenship and voting rights has been a long, hard battle.
The election in 1973 enabled black and white
to vote on an equal footing for the first time.
On the run-up to the election, Frank was out canvassing,
encouraging his people to vote.
I went out and tried to get them all on the roll for voting
and when I got back to Wyndham, the story...
Well, there was a big commotion about it.
There was a lot of the white voters up in arms, fully armed, they were going to gun me down.
They reckoned I was out recruiting Aborigines for black power,
going to take over the white people.
-And they threatened to shoot you?
-They did, they threatened to shoot me.
That was back in 1973. It's still crystal clear in my mind.
37 years on, and the voters at the polling stations
are much more congenial and unguarded.
-Hello, there, how are you?
Just wondered what issues are prominent in your mind
-when you're waiting to vote?
Black people, mining tax, and am I going to vote for the right person.
Immigration, big one.
WA getting a fair share of the royalties from mining.
-Are you thinking about what you're voting for while queuing?
-No, I never think.
I can't see any black faces in the queue. I just wondered...?
I hope there's a bus out there picking some of them up.
Most of them get ushered along by someone.
-What do you mean?
-Brought along, basically.
What about indigenous affairs?
I think they're all right, don't you?
Well, I'm asking you, I wondered is indigenous affairs something you think about?
-Why? Can you explain to me? I'm new here.
I think they're pretty well looked after, as far as I'm concerned.
You think it should be an issue, then?
Yet, because a lot of taxpayers' money is spent there.
-Too much, maybe?
-I'm not saying too much, but it's spent wrongly.
It's spent too much on ministration,
not down to where it's supposed to be. Nothing changes.
You just have to go for a drive round the outskirts of here, nothing changes.
Do Aboriginal people really have that much clout
when it comes to health dollars?
Do their votes really count that much?
Are you going to put 1.8 million
into the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service
so that we can provide a service? Or do we put it into
a marginal seat in Perth or in Adelaide or wherever?
I don't want to be a cynical bastard. I want to be...
I want to think that people...
No, no, I'm just a cynical bastard, actually.
Change is not going to happen overnight.
Change isn't going to happen until we believe it's going to be meaningful for us.
It's going to get harder for us black fellas
if we don't really start unifying our way of thinking and really working on one outcome.
One voice, one outcome.
-It's 24 to seven on RM Breakfast.
First, though, it may seem improbable
but going on current opinion polls,
the chance of a hung parliament after the next election is real.
Yes, the current state of play is that Labor has 72 seats, the coalition 69,
and then the Greens, one, independents, three, with five seats still hanging in the balance.
Medicine and politics go hand in hand
and I've been watching the election with great interest,
because when I was here a few years ago, Kevin Rudd made the apology
to the stolen generation and I think a lot of people at that point thought
yes, you know, something positive is going to be done for Aboriginal issues.
Today, the Parliament has come together to right a great wrong...
In 2008, during a medical placement in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia,
Mary witnessed an historic event, Apology Day.
Recognised by many as one of the most important days in Australian history,
when the government finally came to terms
with its past treatment of the Aboriginal people.
We apologise, especially for the removal
of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families,
their communities and their country.
..for the pain, suffering and hurt the of these stolen generations...
During the last century and only ending in 1975,
over 50,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed
from their parents in an attempt to cleanse them from their indigenous heritage.
Referred to as "the stolen generation", these children
were hidden away in boarding houses and Christian missions
and many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse.
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations we say sorry.
As a mother, you can't even begin to think
and to appreciate what has gone on in this country
when these people came and stole their children.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters,
for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
Now, two years on, two and a half years on,
I've been watching this very closely
and speaking to people that work here at the OVAHS clinic about politics,
and nobody ever wants to say who they're going to vote for,
but what we all have in common here is that there's been very little said in the media,
on television, on radio, about indigenous health affairs
and what can be done to improve these things.
Of course, it's obvious to me that it's a low, low priority.
But it is really sad to see the potential next Prime Ministers
saying very little about indigenous health issues
and I would have thought that in a country such as this,
it would have been a priority.
You know, they've talked more about sending the boat people back
and abortion and things like that than actually,
the natural custodians of their land.
It's the day Mary has been looking forward to,
the arrival of her husband, Alastair.
Apart from two short medical placements,
Alastair and Mary have only been separated for 10 days in their 25 years of marriage.
Oh! I love you!
-Bloody Falkland Islands! Did you have a good flight?
-Are you tired?
-No, not too bad.
-Not too bad.
I just thought I'd let you feel the heat.
-It's wonderful. Melbourne was so cold!
-I told you to put a nice shirt on!
-I did! Not too nice!
-Nice to have you.
-Many of them.
I mean, it has been a long, long time to be on your own.
But, it's strange that you just walk through the door together
and, it's going to be not only lovely to see you, but now,
I'll not have to do the shopping, the banking, all these things
and cooking and you can see the bed sheets are still on the whirligig there,
-so that might be one of your first jobs, cos you're very good at that.
-That and bed and breakfast!
I mean, it is odd and it's sad that Tom's not with us but it wasn't to be.
Has she told you about what kind of stuff she's dealing with, getting her hands dirty?
Yes, yes, she's been quite graphic in her details at times.
I think we've worked out a fair idea of the stresses she's working under at times.
It's been very long.
-It's been very long.
-It has gone slowly, it's not been a quick...
Yeah, I am relieved.
With just days to go before the end of her contract, Mary has accepted
an invitation to help out for an evening at the local hospital.
-Have you had a scan?
Senior Medical Officer, Dr Eric Beltz,
worked in Botswana for several years before moving to Australia
and is highly experienced in Third World medicine.
-Were you shocked when you came here?
-It's a different approach.
I mean, health is extremely important for everybody
and there seems to be a different approach to health here.
-It's a girl.
-It's a girl? OK.
There's far less resources that side than here.
I think it's a bit of education that you're saying is needed,
but the priorities should be right here.
Both doctors share common knowledge of Third World healthcare.
They also share the same frustrations as to what can be done about it.
You know, I just think something,
and I've got not the answer,
something has got to be done to reverse this treating
endstage renal failure, endstage cardiac failure,
by operations that cost 40,000 or whatever for a valve.
Let's look at the housing, the things that cause disease and prevention.
I tend to agree with that. It's unfortunate,
and you wonder why that is, there's money not getting where it's supposed to go,
if the programme's wrong, or what's wrong with the whole system
in as much as there should be a programme goes to politicians so that they can see
what's actually happening. I would like, definitely, some visits from politicians,
not to see how well things are running, but see how things
are actually running in the towns, in the townships and in the remote areas.
-In the communities.
-In the communities, see how people live,
not looking only at nice, posh areas in this town, for example,
but go to different communities.
Ours will be a government with just one purpose
and that's to serve the Australian people.
We will be held more accountable than ever before
and more than any government in modern memory.
What actually really astounded me about this election,
as opposed to the last election, where Kevin Rudd was talking about saying sorry and closing the gap,
and actually every second news bite was about Aboriginal health and saying sorry, it was incredible.
I think the momentum behind that actually carried on
for about a year, then it just kind of slid off.
This election, I'm sorry to say, has been an utter disappointment
for Aboriginal health, as far as I'm concerned.
I wonder where all that momentum and where all that hope went.
You know? I really do. I...wonder where it went to.
I actually think that it was just thrown out with the baby, basically.
After three months working flat-out,
it's Mary's last full day at the clinic.
Soon, OVHAS will be down to just one part-time and two full-time doctors.
But the patients keep coming, at around 120 a day.
My husband thinks he's sleeping with a pod of whales,
cos when I breathe in and out at night time it goes, "Wheeeee."
Is that once daily?
This foot is not good.
We need to get you back in hospital, keep your leg up.
Yeah, I know, she's on the...
You had a needle before? Eh?
Oooh! Tell me a story, Raymond. Tell me a wee story.
Hunt the soap.
We're hunting for soap.
You've got... You've got diabetes, high blood pressure...
Both of us, you know? My husband had the blindness for a while.
Finding replacement doctors
is a constant struggle for the OVHAS board,
made more difficult by a primary healthcare system
fraught with inequalities.
It's a crime what the Aboriginal Medical Services pay their doctors
and what the health service pay their doctors.
It would be about 170 grand difference...in salary.
It's a massive amount of money
and it's something that we just can't do.
One of our core budgets had a loss of 30 for the month.
'Whilst that inequality exists, Aboriginal health will struggle'
because we can't attract Australian trained GPs for a start.
We attract an awful lot of overseas doctors, however,
it's pretty tough and sad when a lot of the Aboriginal medical services
cannot employ Australian-based doctors.
And... Because they're all working at the bloody hospital
and in private practice, you know what I mean?
The argument over the recruitment and retention
of doctors in rural areas seems set to go on.
Meanwhile, the churn of patients at the clinic goes on relentlessly.
Watch, because there might be a wee person behind the door.
There we go, there we go.
Some more needy than others.
Hello, I'm Doctor Mary. Now it's Gus, isn't it?
This family has arrived from the outlying community of Balgo,
600 kilometres away.
OVAHS is their nearest clinic,
and it's the first time Mary has met them.
There we go. Are you wanting to...
The consultation seems straight forward. Gus, one of the young boys,
has had a bad ear infection,
and Mary has asked senior OVAHS nurse, Dave Mitchell, to help out.
So you can see the pus just pouring out of his ear there.
Oh, poor darling. Poor wee man. Poor wee man.
This is so common, isn't it? With these kids.
Oh, I know it's sore, my darling. I know, I know.
This one isn't quite so bad. It's the right side that looks ...
Is that what you thought? Yeah?
-How much does he weigh?
-He's 10.6 kilos.
-That's 200 milligrams and five mils.
-200 and five...
Eva, we'll be back. You can guarantee that.
I don't know how he's going to do here, but we'll try.
Ooh, nice medicine.
It's estimated that 90% of Aboriginal children suffer
from recurring middle-ear infections,
with many developing holes in the ear drums,
and frequent leakage of pus,
causing deafness, hampering speech development
and interfering with educational development.
The infant mortality rate for Aboriginal children
is three times the national average,
mostly as a result of low birthweight,
greatly increasing the risk
of developing chronic diseases later in life.
Have you used a syringe before?
Will I put all this into a plastic bag for you?
In a bag. Oh!
During the consultation, Mary has also been keeping an eye
on Gus's older brother, who appears to be sleeping on the surgery floor.
You all right?
Are you OK there?
-Is he all right?
Are you coming? Come on. Come with me, wee man, hey?
I'll get a bag.
Let me get the door for Mum. There we go.
Watch your toes now. Watch your toes.
There we go.
Come on, come on.
What's wrong with you, eh?
Come on, we'll have a look at you too.
Where's your tummy, sore? Hungry? This wee fella's not right.
He's just sitting down in the corner there. Told me it's his tummy.
-Where's your tummy sore?
Is your tummy sore here? Where is it sore, darling?
-There? Are you hungry? Are you hungry?
Do you want something to eat? Yeah? Is he hungry, Mum?
-You wanna go to the shop?
-Let me feel your tummy.
Where's your tummy sore? Is it sore here?
Are you a hungry boy? Are you very hungry?
Are you just thirsty? Thirsty and hungry?
Has he been eating and drinking OK the last few days, yeah?
Is that nice?
You've been very thirsty, haven't you?
Does that feel better? OK? That feel better?
OK, cough for me. Can you cough?
-Go on, try and cough.
-Cough for Mummy.
Try again. Try another cough. WET COUGHING
He has a chest infection as well.
Can I have some amoxicillin syrup, and...
-This one here.
-Yeah. And, um, 2.5 three times.
Come on, talk to me.
I can't talk to you.
I just find it very upsetting at times.
Can't let the professional and personal get to you, mate.
You know things get a bit crazy.
That wee kid sitting there, all this...muck pouring out of his ears.
That's the thing, the runny ears, it's a normal thing.
I know, I know. But the other one's starving, you know?
And they're covered in nits and...unclean,
and the mum's trying her best. It's just such human tragedy and despair.
-That's the thing. I mean, it's not just one problem...
And you try and fix it and there's another thing, there's housing, where they live..
I know. Have you got any tissues in here so I can just...
try and pull myself together before I go out there?
Right, here we go. Here we go.
This is for this wee fellow, Mum, OK?
MOTHER SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY
Oh, you're on the phone?
Can you come off the phone, Mum, so I can show you what to do?
-Are you finished your call?
We've got some medicine that you can take and we'll give you some water. All right?
-And you give it up to there,
three times a day, it's on the bottle.
-Three times a day.
-Sit down. That's a boy.
-Is he saying anything to you?
Yeah, we've been talking about pre-primary.
Is he OK? I mean, he's not in agony or...
No, he wants to go get another drink.
So next time...
In this case, a small intervention
has prevented a potentially disastrous medical situation from developing...
Come on, then, honey bun.
You all right? There we go.
Now you know that somebody will be out to see you tomorrow, OK? Right.
The OVAHS healthcare professionals
are aware that today's child patients
are tomorrow's chronic cases, just waiting to happen.
What you've just seen is what happens in here...every day,
-every day, isn't it Dave?
-Yep. It's an unfortunate thing.
I suppose you get hardened to it, don't you?
Because you have to pull your emotions back
from seeing and comparing your own kids
with what they have as well, isn't it?
But you have to, because if you let one get to you,
you let them all get to you, and it's...
Every now and then one will slip through the system and it gets in the cracks.
-But if you did it to everybody, You wouldn't be in the job.
That's why we're in the business.
Everyone has their weak spot.
Thanks for coming, because I wouldn't coped on my own with that all.
-Well, I didn't know who was going to take them.
I'd better do some swabs.
I think you should take a wee break and get a cup of tea, or something.
I... I think actually if you just left me alone.
Mary's time at the OVAHS clinic is over.
Unaccustomed to speaking as I am,
we once again say goodbye to another staff member,
Doctor Mary, wherever you are... There you are.
It's another sad day at OVAHS.
The more you think about it, the heavier it gets.
We're trying and we're trying and we're trying,
and I think that's why you get burned out, why people throw their hands up in the air and say,
"I'm off!" You know what I mean?
When you think about this, you're talking about people's lives here,
you're talking about a culture, about stories, you're talking about people's history,
and the impact that the lack of resources has on that history.
..so, um, I don't really know what else to say, apart from thank you, Doctor Mary.
If somebody had said I would be back in Kununurra...
It's been three months in a strange and difficult environment,
but Mary has made many friends here, who understand her pain and torment.
They say goodbye, knowing that she is taking with her a lifetime of extraordinary experiences.
There's lots and many, many happy memories, but the thing, um...
Put that camera away!
-Nothing is ever just...
There's always that bit of an edge somewhere else.
We need to eradicate rheumatic heart disease. In Australia, we shouldn't have this. It's disgraceful.
We actually see more rheumatic fever in the Kimberley
than probably Africa, India,
where rheumatic fever is very common.
All we ask in life is three things.
The basic needs of Aboriginal people is water, power and housing.
-Water, power and housing.
-And no community's ever gotten that yet.
He's seen his culture his dissipate, his country be taken off him.
He's living in poverty. He's been disempowered.
This is a senior lawman from a large part of this Kimberley region.
If he was a white fella, he'd have heaps of respect.
He'd have a big house, cars that don't break down every five minutes, you know what I mean?
People would listen to him. How would you feel?
-You never stop grieving, my dear.
-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 go by that I stop grieving for him.
We have to do something now, because I tell you now, our kids are getting lighter.
We won't be an Aboriginal race any more. There won't.
It'll just die out.
We will die out. And 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?
It's not that I've forgotten my lines.
I don't have lines, but the thing...
Somebody help me out here.
-Commercial break! That's a good one.
Commercial break. The thing I was trying to say, that's what you need to break that cycle of pure emotion,
is to say thank you so much. I've learnt so much from the doctors,
and I've learnt so much about third-world diseases,
which, to be honest, have been completely shocking.
It shocked me to see preventable diseases, and people dying from them every day.
I'm not going to go on and dwell on that too much, because everybody that works here knows that.
But, for me, it has been overwhelming at times.
I just want to thank you all, every one of you... Cheers. ..for putting us up.
Before starting her long journey home, there is one final question.
Has Mary found any answers to the Aboriginal health crisis?
I was speaking to a guy that said, the only thing that's going to improve Aboriginal health care
is if the World Health Organisation comes in and does something about it.
But I was thinking, well, he's maybe not that far wrong,
because this has gone on and on and on and on.
And you know, to white Australians listening to me talking like this,
some of them will be really, really angry and they'll say, "What the hell do you mean?"
But a lot of people don't actually know what's happening.
To be honest, I would be ashamed if I wasn't proactive
and really doing something about the situation,
not just here in Kununurra, but in all these Aboriginal communities, throughout Australia.
-Have you got everything?
-I think so.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
A trip to the local rodeo and a snap general election give Mary a new perspective on the future hopes of the Aboriginal people and their relationship with their past colonial masters, helping Mary find her own solution to the ongoing Aboriginal medical crisis.