Episode 3 Doctor Fortune's Australian Casebook


Episode 3

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Two years ago, Doctor Mary Fortune, an experienced GP from the Scottish Highlands,

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promised to return to Australia to work for three months in Aboriginal health care.

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Based at an Aboriginal clinic in Kununurra, Mary soon discovered the shocking state of Aboriginal health.

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Many struck down with preventable Third World diseases.

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These bugs come into the body, they go down, get into the heart, bang, time bomb.

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And you do wonder how that can happen in a country like this.

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She was horrified by the conditions in the Aboriginal housing estates.

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I'm really sort of struggling here to understand how...

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how this situation has come about.

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She witnessed first-hand the drug and alcohol fuelled disintegration of Aboriginal life and culture...

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My people are dying quickly from alcohol.

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And there's nothing to stop it.

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..leaving Mary feeling confused and looking for answers.

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Your head just goes round and round and round the whole time thinking, "Why?

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"Why has this situation got so bad?"

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On arrival in Australia, Mary's mission generated great political interest

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when she was delighted to meet the Deputy Premier to discuss her work.

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And, as she approaches her final three weeks,

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the Australian government announce a surprise general election.

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Not being allowed to vote, Mary finds her own way to get involved.

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You can see it's a photo finish.

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I put a wee bet on and we'll wait and see what happens.

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But do you know, medicine and politics go hand in hand.

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I'm not enjoying myself,

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but you know, as a doctor, I'm experiencing something that

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I would never have had the opportunity to experience had I stayed at home in my cosy surgery.

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Swallow? Clever you. Oh, well done.

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It pushes your boundaries to the limit.

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It pushes your emotions to the limit.

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Sores around the ears and then the back there, and there's a runny ear here as well.

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I mean, if you think every day's a struggle for you,

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what the hell is it like for these people out there that have got these problems?

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You know, my life's a breeze in comparison.

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I'm a privileged person, you know? I'm one of the lucky ones.

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Aboriginal life expectancy can be up to 20 years less than non-indigenous Australians.

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How are you today?

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Good? Well, if you're good, why are you at the doctor's?

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Almost half of Aboriginal men, and over a third of Aboriginal women, will die before the age of 45.

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The Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service Clinic, or OVAHS, was opened in 1983, to cater for

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the specific needs of Aboriginals, although its doors are open to everyone, black or white.

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-Is this your big sister you're here with?

-My mum.

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THEY LAUGH

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At that time, Aboriginal people were just emerging from a suppressed and brutal past.

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One of the founding members of the clinic, Frank Chulung, lived through it.

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The way they've treated Aboriginal people is really bad.

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I've treated my dog better.

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And, um,

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but that was the way of life.

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The shocking state of indigenous health was one of the main concerns

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of a radical group of Aboriginal activists in the '70s and '80s.

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as a member, Frank went on to use his experience and political muscle to do something about it.

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So in 1983, I decided to get a medical service up and running here,

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and at that time we all believed that, from the National Aboriginal Conference

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that represented, we all believed that we should bring

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Aboriginal people up to local, state, national and international levels.

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And I guess to some extent we have achieved something like that now.

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But after three decades of working flat out,

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the state of Aboriginal health has barely improved,

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leaving those now in charge under extreme pressure.

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We have two and a half full time doctors and one locum.

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What we need is a minimum of five permanent doctors.

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However, in order to see every single person, we need seven doctors, simple as that.

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So you've got a huge shortfall here.

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It's massive. It's massive. We need seven doctors, we need 13 nurses, 13 Aboriginal health workers,

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we need seven drivers and we need five people working at the front desk.

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We don't have that.

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Although the clinic has no appointment system, elderly patients

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are given priority if their medical state is deemed an emergency.

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What do you think about going to hospital?

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Mary decides this old lady is an emergency,

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and may need hospitalisation.

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-Yeah. Are you very busy?

-But first, she has to check with the local hospital to find a bed space.

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I have a patient who's probably very well known to you, called Linda Cameron.

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She's a 71-year-old lady who suffers from COPD...

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Linda Cameron's carer, Veronica, has become increasingly anxious about Linda's living conditions.

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Believing it's no longer safe to leave Linda at home, she has

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brought her directly to the clinic in an attempt to find a solution.

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And I'll take a list of her medicines for you right away. Thank you

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very much, Erik. Thank you. See you. Bye, bye.

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He says, "I know that lady."

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So that's fine.

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Things at home are not good, are they?

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Things... People that are meant to be looking after you aren't looking after you as well as they should,

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and from what I hear, I think it's important that we put you into hospital and care for you for

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a few days, to give you a few days' break from the chaos at home and then see how things are.

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INDISTINCT

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Mary became familiar with Linda's home circumstances when

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two weeks earlier, she arrived at the clinic in a frail state.

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After a further examination today, Mary believes her condition has deteriorated,

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not just from infection but domestic circumstances.

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And the only course of action,

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to move her from her own home.

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This is a lifeline for them

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because they don't like going to hospital unless they have to.

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Linda here doesn't want to go to hospital, but she knows

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she'll feel better when she comes out after a few days.

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It'd just be so nice if these elderly people, who are meant to be respected individuals

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of the community were cared and looked after in a tender, loving and supportive environment.

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I mean, my God, that's what every human being needs.

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It's a human right, that they should have proper housing, proper sanitation, people who care for them.

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When I look at how my mother lives, and how Linda lives, there is just no comparison.

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Many Aboriginals live on designated estates, or so called "reserves" in and around Kununurra.

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Mary had previously visited a nearby estate to see for herself.

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It's like a ghetto, really. It's like a rural slum.

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I would not be able to sustain that type of living myself as a younger person.

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I mean, can you imagine being plucked out of our home and put

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into their home at the age of 71, with illnesses, etcetera etcetera, how would you feel?

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How would you cope?

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No bed, no change of clothes, 20 people, 30 people

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coming through your home like a train every night, stealing your food.

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Cats and dogs around, broken windows, people breaking in.

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I mean, how the hell would you be able to live, like that?

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It's deplorable, it's despicable. It's shameful.

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Hi, Linda.

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-It's Doctor Mary. Remember I saw you in the clinic this afternoon?

-Yeah.

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How are you feeling tonight?

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Fine. I'm relaxed.

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I think you're a familiar face here, aren't you, darling?

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It's unbelievable and I've seen that time and time again.

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Line of tragedy coming in that door at the OVAHS.

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Every single one of them has tragedy written on their forehead before you even look at their notes.

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Is that better? And you know, these are Linda's notes.

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She's 71, so she's done pretty well.

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But there's notes this thick on people who are 30, 40 years old with chronic disease.

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Why should that be?

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Why should it be?

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I'm sorry, I'm getting angry, but that's

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you know...

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It's just shocking.

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To help ease the stresses and strains, Mary looks forward to

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her daily contact with her family, half-way around the globe.

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Look at you! What are you doin' with that hat on?

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G'day, Bruce, how're you doin', mate?

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-'G'day, mate.'

-Are you havin' good weather there or what?

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Are you going to put that in your case?

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After almost 11 weeks of living apart, Mary's husband, Alistair,

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has decided to fly out and help her through the last few days of her placement.

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Well, I wish you were coming this weekend.

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'So do I. So do I.'

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I'm lonely.

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'I'm lonely! Will you get a bottle of champagne or something into the fridge? A wee bottle of wine?'

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No, there'll be a couple of bottles of champagne in the fridge.

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There's just too much to tell you but believe you me, it has been

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-really difficult.

-'I know that.'

-Yeah, yeah, yeah.

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'Was it worse than you originally expected it to be?'

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I don't think anything would prepare you for this, Alistair, to be honest.

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Nothing.

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-'It sounds pretty dire.'

-Oh, it is.

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'Can you hear Mum?'

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Oh, tell him I love him and I miss him.

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-'Don't be too late in getting home.'

-OK. I love you, darling.

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-'I love you.'

-I love you.

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-Take care.

-'I'll speak to you soon. Hopefully tomorrow. OK?'

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Love you. Bye.

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-You're a big fella.

-They said down here.

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Just to the left now, along here.

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You're some man, Charlie.

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You've got gout.

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You've had a broken ankle, you've had a broken tibia, you've had a broken fibula.

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You've got two knee replacements, You've got multiple fractures in

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both hands, you've fractured your lower back.

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Is there anything else?

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-Front teeth are all gone.

-Your front teeth. OK.

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-And up here.

-Up there.

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And how did you do that?

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-I hit a tree.

-Oh, jeepers.

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And that's all due to rodeo?

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The Kununurra Rodeo is one of the biggest events of the year,

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and provides a much needed distraction for Mary from the pressures of the OVAHS clinic.

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Yeehar!

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The two-day event is a display of traditional skills

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learned during the early days of colonisation, when sheep and cattle were imported in vast quantities.

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Hey!

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Due to their skills with animals and knowledge of the land, many Aboriginals were taken on

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as cattle hands and worked side by side with their white counterparts, which has stood the test of time.

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Today's skilled horseman and wranglers come from all over Australia,

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including one of the top stars, local boy Aaron Griffiths.

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Aaron, good on you Aaron.

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You got your licence,

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and Harry Wilson.

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I see you've got a prize in your pocket there. What'd you get?

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-Ah, second place in the bullride.

-Oh, fantastic.

-Yeah.

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I mean, there's some big beasts there.

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Yeah, they're pretty good, yeah.

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So is this bull riding and horse riding and rodeo and station stuff go way back into your family history?

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Yeah. Well, I've been ringing for the last... Ever since I was 13.

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-Ringing, does that mean mustering, riding horses?

-Riding horses, yeah.

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-So it's in your blood.

-Yeah.

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My grandfather and his father did it, and now all my sons are doing it,

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-and my grandchild's doing it.

-So you're doing it.

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50 years ago, it wasn't done for sport.

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Living and working in the cattle industry had few pleasures.

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Well, I worked out on the cattle station,

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Newry Cattle Station back in 1956, when I was 16,

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and I seen how the Aboriginal people at them stations were treated.

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Another thing I could tell you that you really wouldn't think had happened to Aboriginal people, that

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women used to be raped, Aboriginal women used to be raped by white men at will.

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And there...

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I've never known anybody to be charged with sexual assault, or rape, you know, right until about 1972.

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Even as late as the 1960s, many Aboriginals were considered to be the property of the landowners.

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They were working as labourers,

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to put it mildly. I mean, some people say they worked there as slaves

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because they just worked for nothing.

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They were fed

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and that's about it.

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So tea and sugar, as people say. We worked for tea and sugar.

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In 1967 a national referendum was held, giving Aboriginals basic human rights,

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removing them from their previous status of flora and fauna.

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Two years later, an equal pay act was introduced,

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forcing white landowners to up the wages for Aboriginals,

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from tea and sugar to the going rate.

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Imagine what happens if people leave the farm or cattle station.

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Has about 50 or 100, or maybe even only 30 Aboriginal people working there for nothing

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and suddenly they would have to pay the same wages they would pay to their white farm hands.

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What happens? They got laid off.

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And that's just exactly what happened. That's what drove the people into towns.

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They have no idea how to live in houses.

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They have no introduction to so called civilisation that the white people brought in.

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Suddenly there were shops, there was alcohol, there was western lifestyle.

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And people were dumped into that.

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In a way, I was surprised when I first arrived here, and people said

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"Oh, the good old days when we still worked on the station," they said.

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Oh, come on, you worked as slaves.

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What good old days are you talking about?

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But people said, "Yeah, but yeah, there was no drinking and we had a job,

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"we knew what to do and in the wet season we had a holiday time

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"so we left our stuff behind and we went bush again

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"for a few months, then came back and worked on the station again."

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People refer to that as a good time.

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They are aware that on some stations, you were mistreated.

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You were probably beaten.

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And yet, if you ask the old people,

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they were

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well, they have some nostalgic feelings about those times.

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Because now, they are surrounded by our modern life problems

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and it seems it has an even stronger impact on people.

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Since leaving his job as stockman and cattle wrangler 40 years ago,

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Alan Griffiths is now famous for his work as an artist and painter.

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During Mary's stint at the OVAHS clinic, Alan has become one of her regular patients.

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It's still ticking, that's the important thing.

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I can see a kangaroo up there on the top of the hill.

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Say that again? Say it slowly for me.

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I think you got it a wee bit quick there.

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-What'd you say?

-I can see a kangaroo fella up on the hill there.

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I can see a kangaroo up the top of the hill there.

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Alan has invited Mary to his place of work, the Waringarri Aboriginal Arts Centre, on the edge of town.

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Hi there.

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-You must be Cathy.

-Hi, Mary, how are you?

-At last we've got here.

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-Terrific. Well, here's Alan at work.

-Here's Alan.

-Hello.

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You look much more comfortable sitting there than you do in the surgery, that's for sure.

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So this is your expertise?

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You know that I met your grandson at the rodeo?

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He can certainly sit on a horse and a bull, can't he?

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He learned that from his grandad, did he?

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-Yeah.

-Yeah?

-Got a little bit of style from me, I think.

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-What did he say?

-He's got style from him.

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I would say he has, actually.

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As a community elder and custodian of Aboriginal culture,

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Alan is keen for all white visitors

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to see first hand what the gallery is trying to achieve.

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-So this was a story?

-Yeah.

-It was a dream he had?

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Yes, he had a dream and that dream was then

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-transferred into a performance, which he now paints.

-Right.

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Alan and curator, Cathy Cummins believe that many

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Aboriginal traditions and ways of life are vanishing.

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What the senior artists have been asking us

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to do for quite a while is, and this is across the Kimberley too,

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is to film them, to video them, to document what they have to say,

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document their stories.

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They are so well aware of what's happening to the generations

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below them and their hope is that these recordings will be held.

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When someone's ready to look at them, they'll be there.

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It's not only damaging to the young people in this community,

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it's damaging to the knowledge base of Australia.

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We're losing that because we're not listening enough.

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The losing of knowledge, the losing of culture,

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the losing of recognition

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-and if it's not archived, you've lost it.

-Yeah.

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The Kimberley region is rich in Aboriginal history,

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dating back more than 40,000 years.

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But the stories and events since colonisation, just 200 years ago,

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are equally important to preserve, no matter how painful.

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ABORIGINAL CHANTING

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Fire Fire Burning Bright,

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a true story of brutality, racism and murder,

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goes straight to the heart of the difficult relationship between black and white

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and was brought to prominence by senior Aboriginal elder

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and cultural custodian, Peggy Patrick.

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I've read all about you and it's just clicked who you are.

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I've read about you in Fire Fire Burning Bright.

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-Yeah.

-That's you?

-That's mine.

-Fantastic.

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The story goes,

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a group of around 12 Aboriginal men, including Peggy's father,

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were falsely accused of stealing a cow.

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They were chained and frogmarched to a remote cattle station.

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The men were forced to chop wood in preparation for their own funeral pyre.

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They were poisoned with strychnine

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and then bludgeoned and shot at close range...

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Their half-dead bodies then thrown on the blazing pyre.

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Peggy's work has become so popular and far-reaching

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she recently became one of the few Aboriginals to be awarded

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one of the country's most prestigious honours,

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the Order of Australia.

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You're an amazing woman, Peggy Patrick.

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-Thank you.

-Amazing woman.

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Peggy and Alan Griffiths have worked tirelessly for conciliation between black and white.

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Some time, you're going to be like that.

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And over the last 50 years, tensions have eased.

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Would you like to come in? You got a wee present there for me?

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The mix of black and white patients at the clinic

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gives Mary a snapshot of today's race relations.

0:24:110:24:15

To me, it doesn't matter if your skin's black, white or yellow,

0:24:150:24:19

we're the same, we all get sick, we've all got a heart.

0:24:190:24:24

So, yeah, it doesn't make any difference to me.

0:24:240:24:27

-Makes a difference to some people in this town, doesn't it?

-Some, yeah.

0:24:290:24:32

The majority of them don't work, they will never work, they don't want to work,

0:24:320:24:38

whereas I've worked all my life and paid my taxes.

0:24:380:24:42

They're getting away with murder, black fellas.

0:24:420:24:45

They're getting far too much money.

0:24:450:24:47

And it's not this generation's fault either,

0:24:470:24:50

it's the generation before them and before them and before. They've had no education.

0:24:500:24:55

They come in the roadhouse drunk and smash things.

0:24:550:24:59

Yeah, that's bad, but the majority of people, they're good.

0:24:590:25:03

Yeah. It's when they get on the piss a bit and like any white man too.

0:25:030:25:09

But some Aboriginal and mixed-race patients have a more discerning view.

0:25:090:25:15

Australia's got a habit of being known as a polite racism country.

0:25:150:25:20

There's nothing polite about racism.

0:25:200:25:23

There's also nothing polite about the genocide that's happening in these regions.

0:25:230:25:29

I think that that's... a lot of people don't see that.

0:25:290:25:32

They think, well no, this is not a form of genocide,

0:25:320:25:35

and so genocide comes in different ways.

0:25:350:25:39

I think what we're seeing here is a genocide in all different ways.

0:25:390:25:43

Yeah. It's pretty evident when you see what's happening here

0:25:450:25:50

with patients coming through

0:25:500:25:53

and I do think sometimes, it must be very difficult for white Australians

0:25:530:25:59

not to want to perhaps recognise that this is

0:25:590:26:02

happening in their own backyard.

0:26:020:26:05

-RADIO:

-Good morning, this is AM, I'm Tony Eastley on the last full day at election campaigning.

0:26:110:26:19

Well, it worked for the Conservative Party in the UK earlier this year, and now...

0:26:190:26:23

Goodness, what a crowd of folks.

0:26:230:26:26

This is the leisure centre in Kununurra,

0:26:260:26:28

which is the polling booth today,

0:26:280:26:30

THE most important day of the year really, for Australians,

0:26:300:26:35

voting for the new Prime Minister.

0:26:350:26:38

Voting in Australia is compulsory.

0:26:390:26:42

But, I don't have a vote, so I'm not going to get into trouble.

0:26:440:26:48

Winning full citizenship and voting rights has been a long, hard battle.

0:26:520:26:58

The election in 1973 enabled black and white

0:26:580:27:03

to vote on an equal footing for the first time.

0:27:030:27:06

On the run-up to the election, Frank was out canvassing,

0:27:060:27:10

encouraging his people to vote.

0:27:100:27:12

I went out and tried to get them all on the roll for voting

0:27:120:27:18

and when I got back to Wyndham, the story...

0:27:180:27:23

Well, there was a big commotion about it.

0:27:230:27:25

There was a lot of the white voters up in arms, fully armed, they were going to gun me down.

0:27:250:27:30

They reckoned I was out recruiting Aborigines for black power,

0:27:300:27:33

going to take over the white people.

0:27:330:27:36

-And they threatened to shoot you?

-They did, they threatened to shoot me.

0:27:360:27:39

That was back in 1973. It's still crystal clear in my mind.

0:27:390:27:45

37 years on, and the voters at the polling stations

0:27:450:27:49

are much more congenial and unguarded.

0:27:490:27:52

-Hello, there, how are you?

-Hi.

0:27:520:27:53

Just wondered what issues are prominent in your mind

0:27:530:27:56

-when you're waiting to vote?

-Black people.

-Pardon?

0:27:560:27:59

Black people, mining tax, and am I going to vote for the right person.

0:27:590:28:03

Immigration, big one.

0:28:030:28:06

WA getting a fair share of the royalties from mining.

0:28:060:28:10

-Are you thinking about what you're voting for while queuing?

-No, I never think.

0:28:100:28:15

I can't see any black faces in the queue. I just wondered...?

0:28:150:28:18

I hope there's a bus out there picking some of them up.

0:28:180:28:21

Most of them get ushered along by someone.

0:28:210:28:24

-What do you mean?

-Brought along, basically.

0:28:240:28:27

What about indigenous affairs?

0:28:270:28:29

I think they're all right, don't you?

0:28:320:28:34

Well, I'm asking you, I wondered is indigenous affairs something you think about?

0:28:340:28:38

-No.

-Why? Can you explain to me? I'm new here.

0:28:380:28:41

I think they're pretty well looked after, as far as I'm concerned.

0:28:410:28:45

You think it should be an issue, then?

0:28:450:28:47

Yet, because a lot of taxpayers' money is spent there.

0:28:470:28:51

-Too much, maybe?

-I'm not saying too much, but it's spent wrongly.

0:28:510:28:55

It's spent too much on ministration,

0:28:550:28:57

not down to where it's supposed to be. Nothing changes.

0:28:570:29:00

You just have to go for a drive round the outskirts of here, nothing changes.

0:29:000:29:04

Do Aboriginal people really have that much clout

0:29:050:29:10

when it comes to health dollars?

0:29:100:29:14

Do their votes really count that much?

0:29:140:29:18

Are you going to put 1.8 million

0:29:180:29:20

into the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service

0:29:200:29:24

so that we can provide a service? Or do we put it into

0:29:240:29:28

a marginal seat in Perth or in Adelaide or wherever?

0:29:280:29:34

I don't want to be a cynical bastard. I want to be...

0:29:340:29:39

I want to think that people...

0:29:390:29:42

No, no, I'm just a cynical bastard, actually.

0:29:420:29:47

Change is not going to happen overnight.

0:29:480:29:51

Change isn't going to happen until we believe it's going to be meaningful for us.

0:29:510:29:55

It's going to get harder for us black fellas

0:29:550:29:59

if we don't really start unifying our way of thinking and really working on one outcome.

0:29:590:30:04

One voice, one outcome.

0:30:040:30:06

-RADIO:

-It's 24 to seven on RM Breakfast.

0:30:110:30:14

First, though, it may seem improbable

0:30:140:30:17

but going on current opinion polls,

0:30:170:30:19

the chance of a hung parliament after the next election is real.

0:30:190:30:23

Yes, the current state of play is that Labor has 72 seats, the coalition 69,

0:30:230:30:28

and then the Greens, one, independents, three, with five seats still hanging in the balance.

0:30:280:30:35

Medicine and politics go hand in hand

0:30:350:30:37

and I've been watching the election with great interest,

0:30:370:30:40

because when I was here a few years ago, Kevin Rudd made the apology

0:30:400:30:46

to the stolen generation and I think a lot of people at that point thought

0:30:460:30:50

yes, you know, something positive is going to be done for Aboriginal issues.

0:30:500:30:56

Today, the Parliament has come together to right a great wrong...

0:30:570:31:02

In 2008, during a medical placement in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia,

0:31:020:31:06

Mary witnessed an historic event, Apology Day.

0:31:060:31:11

Recognised by many as one of the most important days in Australian history,

0:31:110:31:16

when the government finally came to terms

0:31:160:31:18

with its past treatment of the Aboriginal people.

0:31:180:31:22

We apologise, especially for the removal

0:31:220:31:25

of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families,

0:31:250:31:29

their communities and their country.

0:31:290:31:31

..for the pain, suffering and hurt the of these stolen generations...

0:31:330:31:38

During the last century and only ending in 1975,

0:31:380:31:42

over 50,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed

0:31:420:31:46

from their parents in an attempt to cleanse them from their indigenous heritage.

0:31:460:31:51

Referred to as "the stolen generation", these children

0:31:510:31:56

were hidden away in boarding houses and Christian missions

0:31:560:31:59

and many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

0:31:590:32:03

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations we say sorry.

0:32:050:32:11

As a mother, you can't even begin to think

0:32:130:32:17

and to appreciate what has gone on in this country

0:32:170:32:21

when these people came and stole their children.

0:32:210:32:24

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters,

0:32:240:32:30

for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

0:32:300:32:34

Now, two years on, two and a half years on,

0:32:420:32:45

I've been watching this very closely

0:32:450:32:47

and speaking to people that work here at the OVAHS clinic about politics,

0:32:470:32:51

and nobody ever wants to say who they're going to vote for,

0:32:510:32:55

but what we all have in common here is that there's been very little said in the media,

0:32:550:33:01

on television, on radio, about indigenous health affairs

0:33:010:33:07

and what can be done to improve these things.

0:33:070:33:09

Of course, it's obvious to me that it's a low, low priority.

0:33:090:33:15

But it is really sad to see the potential next Prime Ministers

0:33:150:33:20

saying very little about indigenous health issues

0:33:200:33:23

and I would have thought that in a country such as this,

0:33:230:33:26

it would have been a priority.

0:33:260:33:29

You know, they've talked more about sending the boat people back

0:33:290:33:33

and abortion and things like that than actually,

0:33:330:33:37

the natural custodians of their land.

0:33:370:33:40

It's the day Mary has been looking forward to,

0:33:520:33:54

the arrival of her husband, Alastair.

0:33:540:33:56

Apart from two short medical placements,

0:34:010:34:03

Alastair and Mary have only been separated for 10 days in their 25 years of marriage.

0:34:030:34:09

Oh! I love you!

0:34:150:34:19

-Bloody Falkland Islands! Did you have a good flight?

-Yeah, good.

0:34:260:34:31

-Good flight.

-Long.

-Are you tired?

-No, not too bad.

-Not too bad.

0:34:310:34:36

I just thought I'd let you feel the heat.

0:34:360:34:39

-It's wonderful. Melbourne was so cold!

-Yeah?

0:34:390:34:44

-I told you to put a nice shirt on!

-I did! Not too nice!

0:34:440:34:49

Welcome.

0:34:500:34:52

-Nice to have you.

-Many of them.

0:34:570:35:00

I mean, it has been a long, long time to be on your own.

0:35:000:35:05

But, it's strange that you just walk through the door together

0:35:050:35:11

and, it's going to be not only lovely to see you, but now,

0:35:110:35:16

I'll not have to do the shopping, the banking, all these things

0:35:160:35:19

and cooking and you can see the bed sheets are still on the whirligig there,

0:35:190:35:25

-so that might be one of your first jobs, cos you're very good at that.

-That and bed and breakfast!

0:35:250:35:30

I mean, it is odd and it's sad that Tom's not with us but it wasn't to be.

0:35:300:35:36

Has she told you about what kind of stuff she's dealing with, getting her hands dirty?

0:35:360:35:40

Yes, yes, she's been quite graphic in her details at times.

0:35:400:35:45

I think we've worked out a fair idea of the stresses she's working under at times.

0:35:450:35:53

It's been very long.

0:35:530:35:54

-It's been very long.

-It has gone slowly, it's not been a quick...

-No.

0:35:540:35:58

Yeah, I am relieved.

0:36:010:36:02

With just days to go before the end of her contract, Mary has accepted

0:36:060:36:10

an invitation to help out for an evening at the local hospital.

0:36:100:36:15

-Have you had a scan?

-Yes.

0:36:160:36:18

Senior Medical Officer, Dr Eric Beltz,

0:36:180:36:21

worked in Botswana for several years before moving to Australia

0:36:210:36:24

and is highly experienced in Third World medicine.

0:36:240:36:28

-Were you shocked when you came here?

-It's a different approach.

0:36:280:36:32

I mean, health is extremely important for everybody

0:36:320:36:37

and there seems to be a different approach to health here.

0:36:370:36:41

-It's a girl.

-It's a girl? OK.

0:36:410:36:44

There's far less resources that side than here.

0:36:460:36:51

I think it's a bit of education that you're saying is needed,

0:36:510:36:56

but the priorities should be right here.

0:36:560:36:59

Both doctors share common knowledge of Third World healthcare.

0:37:020:37:06

They also share the same frustrations as to what can be done about it.

0:37:060:37:09

You know, I just think something,

0:37:090:37:12

and I've got not the answer,

0:37:120:37:14

something has got to be done to reverse this treating

0:37:140:37:17

endstage renal failure, endstage cardiac failure,

0:37:170:37:21

by operations that cost 40,000 or whatever for a valve.

0:37:210:37:26

Let's look at the housing, the things that cause disease and prevention.

0:37:260:37:31

I tend to agree with that. It's unfortunate,

0:37:310:37:35

and you wonder why that is, there's money not getting where it's supposed to go,

0:37:350:37:39

if the programme's wrong, or what's wrong with the whole system

0:37:390:37:42

in as much as there should be a programme goes to politicians so that they can see

0:37:420:37:46

what's actually happening. I would like, definitely, some visits from politicians,

0:37:460:37:52

not to see how well things are running, but see how things

0:37:520:37:56

are actually running in the towns, in the townships and in the remote areas.

0:37:560:38:01

-In the communities.

-In the communities, see how people live,

0:38:010:38:08

not looking only at nice, posh areas in this town, for example,

0:38:080:38:12

but go to different communities.

0:38:120:38:14

Ours will be a government with just one purpose

0:38:210:38:26

and that's to serve the Australian people.

0:38:260:38:30

We will be held more accountable than ever before

0:38:300:38:33

and more than any government in modern memory.

0:38:330:38:36

What actually really astounded me about this election,

0:38:390:38:43

as opposed to the last election, where Kevin Rudd was talking about saying sorry and closing the gap,

0:38:430:38:50

and actually every second news bite was about Aboriginal health and saying sorry, it was incredible.

0:38:500:38:56

I think the momentum behind that actually carried on

0:38:560:39:01

for about a year, then it just kind of slid off.

0:39:010:39:03

This election, I'm sorry to say, has been an utter disappointment

0:39:030:39:08

for Aboriginal health, as far as I'm concerned.

0:39:080:39:11

I wonder where all that momentum and where all that hope went.

0:39:110:39:15

You know? I really do. I...wonder where it went to.

0:39:150:39:19

I actually think that it was just thrown out with the baby, basically.

0:39:190:39:24

After three months working flat-out,

0:39:270:39:29

it's Mary's last full day at the clinic.

0:39:290:39:33

Soon, OVHAS will be down to just one part-time and two full-time doctors.

0:39:330:39:38

But the patients keep coming, at around 120 a day.

0:39:380:39:41

My husband thinks he's sleeping with a pod of whales,

0:39:410:39:44

cos when I breathe in and out at night time it goes, "Wheeeee."

0:39:440:39:49

-Do you?

-Yes.

0:39:490:39:50

Is that once daily?

0:39:500:39:52

This foot is not good.

0:39:550:39:58

We need to get you back in hospital, keep your leg up.

0:39:580:40:03

Yeah, I know, she's on the...

0:40:030:40:06

You had a needle before? Eh?

0:40:060:40:10

Oooh!

0:40:100:40:11

Oooh! Tell me a story, Raymond. Tell me a wee story.

0:40:110:40:14

(CRIES)

0:40:140:40:16

Hunt the soap.

0:40:180:40:19

We're hunting for soap.

0:40:190:40:22

You've got... You've got diabetes, high blood pressure...

0:40:220:40:25

Both of us, you know? My husband had the blindness for a while.

0:40:250:40:31

Finding replacement doctors

0:40:310:40:33

is a constant struggle for the OVHAS board,

0:40:330:40:37

made more difficult by a primary healthcare system

0:40:370:40:40

fraught with inequalities.

0:40:400:40:41

It's a crime what the Aboriginal Medical Services pay their doctors

0:40:430:40:47

and what the health service pay their doctors.

0:40:470:40:52

It would be about 170 grand difference...in salary.

0:40:520:40:58

It's a massive amount of money

0:40:580:41:00

and it's something that we just can't do.

0:41:000:41:02

One of our core budgets had a loss of 30 for the month.

0:41:020:41:07

'Whilst that inequality exists, Aboriginal health will struggle'

0:41:070:41:15

because we can't attract Australian trained GPs for a start.

0:41:150:41:20

We attract an awful lot of overseas doctors, however,

0:41:220:41:25

it's pretty tough and sad when a lot of the Aboriginal medical services

0:41:250:41:31

cannot employ Australian-based doctors.

0:41:310:41:34

And... Because they're all working at the bloody hospital

0:41:340:41:37

and in private practice, you know what I mean?

0:41:370:41:40

The argument over the recruitment and retention

0:41:400:41:43

of doctors in rural areas seems set to go on.

0:41:430:41:46

Meanwhile, the churn of patients at the clinic goes on relentlessly.

0:41:470:41:52

Watch, because there might be a wee person behind the door.

0:41:520:41:55

There we go, there we go.

0:41:550:41:57

Some more needy than others.

0:41:570:42:00

Hello, I'm Doctor Mary. Now it's Gus, isn't it?

0:42:000:42:03

This family has arrived from the outlying community of Balgo,

0:42:030:42:06

600 kilometres away.

0:42:060:42:07

OVAHS is their nearest clinic,

0:42:080:42:11

and it's the first time Mary has met them.

0:42:110:42:12

There we go. Are you wanting to...

0:42:140:42:17

The consultation seems straight forward. Gus, one of the young boys,

0:42:170:42:22

has had a bad ear infection,

0:42:220:42:23

and Mary has asked senior OVAHS nurse, Dave Mitchell, to help out.

0:42:230:42:27

So you can see the pus just pouring out of his ear there.

0:42:300:42:34

Oh, poor darling. Poor wee man. Poor wee man.

0:42:400:42:44

This is so common, isn't it? With these kids.

0:42:470:42:49

Oh, I know it's sore, my darling. I know, I know.

0:42:490:42:55

I know.

0:42:550:42:57

This one isn't quite so bad. It's the right side that looks ...

0:42:570:43:01

Is that what you thought? Yeah?

0:43:010:43:04

-How much does he weigh?

-He's 10.6 kilos.

0:43:060:43:09

10.6, 250...

0:43:090:43:12

-That's 200 milligrams and five mils.

-200 and five...

0:43:120:43:16

Eva, we'll be back. You can guarantee that.

0:43:180:43:21

I don't know how he's going to do here, but we'll try.

0:43:280:43:32

Ooh, nice medicine.

0:43:320:43:33

It's estimated that 90% of Aboriginal children suffer

0:43:410:43:45

from recurring middle-ear infections,

0:43:450:43:48

with many developing holes in the ear drums,

0:43:480:43:50

and frequent leakage of pus,

0:43:500:43:52

causing deafness, hampering speech development

0:43:520:43:55

and interfering with educational development.

0:43:550:43:59

The infant mortality rate for Aboriginal children

0:44:040:44:07

is three times the national average,

0:44:070:44:09

mostly as a result of low birthweight,

0:44:090:44:12

greatly increasing the risk

0:44:120:44:14

of developing chronic diseases later in life.

0:44:140:44:18

Have you used a syringe before?

0:44:180:44:19

Will I put all this into a plastic bag for you?

0:44:190:44:22

In a bag. Oh!

0:44:220:44:25

During the consultation, Mary has also been keeping an eye

0:44:250:44:29

on Gus's older brother, who appears to be sleeping on the surgery floor.

0:44:290:44:33

You all right?

0:44:330:44:35

Are you OK there?

0:44:370:44:38

-Is he all right?

-Yeah.

-Just tired?

0:44:400:44:42

Are you coming? Come on. Come with me, wee man, hey?

0:44:450:44:50

I'll get a bag.

0:44:540:44:57

Let me get the door for Mum. There we go.

0:44:590:45:01

Watch your toes now. Watch your toes.

0:45:010:45:05

There we go.

0:45:050:45:07

Come on, come on.

0:45:160:45:18

What's wrong with you, eh?

0:45:180:45:20

Come on, we'll have a look at you too.

0:45:210:45:23

Where's your tummy, sore? Hungry? This wee fella's not right.

0:45:260:45:31

He's just sitting down in the corner there. Told me it's his tummy.

0:45:310:45:36

-Where's your tummy sore?

-He's warm.

0:45:360:45:39

Is your tummy sore here? Where is it sore, darling?

0:45:390:45:42

-There.

-There? Are you hungry? Are you hungry?

0:45:420:45:47

Do you want something to eat? Yeah? Is he hungry, Mum?

0:45:510:45:55

-You wanna go to the shop?

-Let me feel your tummy.

0:45:570:46:00

Where's your tummy sore? Is it sore here?

0:46:030:46:08

Are you a hungry boy? Are you very hungry?

0:46:180:46:21

-HE GROANS

-No.

0:46:210:46:23

Are you just thirsty? Thirsty and hungry?

0:46:230:46:27

Has he been eating and drinking OK the last few days, yeah?

0:46:360:46:39

Is that nice?

0:46:410:46:43

You've been very thirsty, haven't you?

0:46:450:46:48

Does that feel better? OK? That feel better?

0:46:480:46:52

OK, cough for me. Can you cough?

0:46:560:46:59

-Go on, try and cough.

-Cough.

-Cough for Mummy.

0:47:000:47:04

WET COUGHING

0:47:050:47:07

Try again. Try another cough. WET COUGHING

0:47:090:47:13

He has a chest infection as well.

0:47:130:47:16

Hey?

0:47:170:47:19

Can I have some amoxicillin syrup, and...

0:47:250:47:30

-This one here.

-Yeah. And, um, 2.5 three times.

0:47:300:47:34

Come on, talk to me.

0:47:420:47:43

I can't talk to you.

0:47:480:47:50

I just find it very upsetting at times.

0:48:020:48:04

Can't let the professional and personal get to you, mate.

0:48:080:48:13

You know things get a bit crazy.

0:48:130:48:16

That wee kid sitting there, all this...muck pouring out of his ears.

0:48:200:48:26

That's the thing, the runny ears, it's a normal thing.

0:48:260:48:30

I know, I know. But the other one's starving, you know?

0:48:300:48:33

And they're covered in nits and...unclean,

0:48:330:48:36

and the mum's trying her best. It's just such human tragedy and despair.

0:48:360:48:40

-That's the thing. I mean, it's not just one problem...

-It's multiple.

0:48:400:48:46

And you try and fix it and there's another thing, there's housing, where they live..

0:48:460:48:50

I know. Have you got any tissues in here so I can just...

0:48:500:48:53

try and pull myself together before I go out there?

0:48:530:48:56

Right, here we go. Here we go.

0:49:040:49:07

This is for this wee fellow, Mum, OK?

0:49:070:49:11

MOTHER SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY

0:49:110:49:13

Oh, you're on the phone?

0:49:160:49:18

Can you come off the phone, Mum, so I can show you what to do?

0:49:280:49:31

-Yeah.

-Are you finished your call?

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

0:49:310:49:35

We've got some medicine that you can take and we'll give you some water. All right?

0:49:450:49:50

-Ready?

-And you give it up to there,

0:49:500:49:53

three times a day, it's on the bottle.

0:49:530:49:55

-Three times a day.

-Sit down. That's a boy.

0:49:550:50:00

-Well done.

-Is he saying anything to you?

0:50:000:50:03

Yeah, we've been talking about pre-primary.

0:50:030:50:06

Is he OK? I mean, he's not in agony or...

0:50:060:50:08

No, he wants to go get another drink.

0:50:080:50:12

So next time...

0:50:120:50:13

In this case, a small intervention

0:50:130:50:15

has prevented a potentially disastrous medical situation from developing...

0:50:150:50:20

..for now.

0:50:210:50:22

Come on, then, honey bun.

0:50:220:50:24

You all right? There we go.

0:50:280:50:32

Now you know that somebody will be out to see you tomorrow, OK? Right.

0:50:320:50:38

-You OK?

-Yeah.

0:50:400:50:41

The OVAHS healthcare professionals

0:50:410:50:44

are aware that today's child patients

0:50:440:50:47

are tomorrow's chronic cases, just waiting to happen.

0:50:470:50:51

What you've just seen is what happens in here...every day,

0:50:560:51:04

-every day, isn't it Dave?

-Yep. It's an unfortunate thing.

0:51:040:51:09

And, um...

0:51:140:51:15

I suppose you get hardened to it, don't you?

0:51:200:51:22

Because you have to pull your emotions back

0:51:220:51:26

from seeing and comparing your own kids

0:51:260:51:30

with what they have as well, isn't it?

0:51:300:51:32

But you have to, because if you let one get to you,

0:51:320:51:35

you let them all get to you, and it's...

0:51:350:51:37

Every now and then one will slip through the system and it gets in the cracks.

0:51:370:51:41

-But if you did it to everybody, You wouldn't be in the job.

-No.

0:51:410:51:44

So...

0:51:440:51:45

That's why we're in the business.

0:51:460:51:48

Everyone has their weak spot.

0:51:500:51:51

Me today.

0:51:540:51:55

Thanks for coming, because I wouldn't coped on my own with that all.

0:51:580:52:03

-Well, I didn't know who was going to take them.

-No.

0:52:030:52:06

OK. Thanks.

0:52:060:52:08

I'd better do some swabs.

0:52:140:52:15

I think you should take a wee break and get a cup of tea, or something.

0:52:150:52:19

I... I think actually if you just left me alone.

0:52:190:52:22

Mary's time at the OVAHS clinic is over.

0:52:290:52:33

Unaccustomed to speaking as I am,

0:52:330:52:36

we once again say goodbye to another staff member,

0:52:360:52:41

Doctor Mary, wherever you are... There you are.

0:52:410:52:44

It's another sad day at OVAHS.

0:52:440:52:46

The more you think about it, the heavier it gets.

0:52:480:52:52

We're trying and we're trying and we're trying,

0:52:520:52:55

and I think that's why you get burned out, why people throw their hands up in the air and say,

0:52:550:53:01

"I'm off!" You know what I mean?

0:53:010:53:03

When you think about this, you're talking about people's lives here,

0:53:030:53:08

you're talking about a culture, about stories, you're talking about people's history,

0:53:080:53:13

and the impact that the lack of resources has on that history.

0:53:130:53:20

..so, um, I don't really know what else to say, apart from thank you, Doctor Mary.

0:53:220:53:28

If somebody had said I would be back in Kununurra...

0:53:320:53:35

It's been three months in a strange and difficult environment,

0:53:350:53:38

but Mary has made many friends here, who understand her pain and torment.

0:53:380:53:43

They say goodbye, knowing that she is taking with her a lifetime of extraordinary experiences.

0:53:430:53:50

There's lots and many, many happy memories, but the thing, um...

0:53:500:53:56

Put that camera away!

0:53:570:53:59

-Nothing is ever just...

-< Straightforward.

0:54:130:54:16

There's always that bit of an edge somewhere else.

0:54:160:54:19

We need to eradicate rheumatic heart disease. In Australia, we shouldn't have this. It's disgraceful.

0:54:190:54:25

We actually see more rheumatic fever in the Kimberley

0:54:250:54:30

than probably Africa, India,

0:54:300:54:34

where rheumatic fever is very common.

0:54:340:54:37

All we ask in life is three things.

0:54:370:54:39

The basic needs of Aboriginal people is water, power and housing.

0:54:390:54:44

-Water, power and housing.

-And no community's ever gotten that yet.

0:54:440:54:49

He's seen his culture his dissipate, his country be taken off him.

0:54:490:54:54

He's living in poverty. He's been disempowered.

0:54:540:54:58

This is a senior lawman from a large part of this Kimberley region.

0:54:580:55:02

If he was a white fella, he'd have heaps of respect.

0:55:030:55:08

He'd have a big house, cars that don't break down every five minutes, you know what I mean?

0:55:080:55:14

People would listen to him. How would you feel?

0:55:140:55:19

-You never stop grieving, my dear.

-No.

-You never stop grieving.

-No.

0:55:190:55:23

-I lost a son. It's ten years since I lost my baby...

-Ohh.

0:55:260:55:29

..my son, through suicide.

0:55:290:55:31

There's never a day go by that I stop grieving for him.

0:55:310:55:35

I know.

0:55:360:55:37

We have to do something now, because I tell you now, our kids are getting lighter.

0:55:400:55:42

We won't be an Aboriginal race any more. There won't.

0:55:420:55:47

It'll just die out.

0:55:470:55:49

We will die out. And you know what?

0:55:490:55:50

If I was someone that didn't want Aboriginal people here, I'd just wait.

0:55:500:55:55

Just wait. They'll be gone in a couple of...you know?

0:55:550:55:59

It's not that I've forgotten my lines.

0:56:010:56:03

I don't have lines, but the thing...

0:56:050:56:07

Somebody help me out here.

0:56:120:56:14

-Commercial break?

->

0:56:160:56:18

-Uh?

-Commercial break?

-Commercial break! That's a good one.

0:56:180:56:21

Commercial break. The thing I was trying to say, that's what you need to break that cycle of pure emotion,

0:56:210:56:28

is to say thank you so much. I've learnt so much from the doctors,

0:56:280:56:31

and I've learnt so much about third-world diseases,

0:56:310:56:35

which, to be honest, have been completely shocking.

0:56:350:56:39

It shocked me to see preventable diseases, and people dying from them every day.

0:56:390:56:46

I'm not going to go on and dwell on that too much, because everybody that works here knows that.

0:56:460:56:51

But, for me, it has been overwhelming at times.

0:56:510:56:55

I just want to thank you all, every one of you... Cheers. ..for putting us up.

0:56:550:57:00

Before starting her long journey home, there is one final question.

0:57:100:57:16

Has Mary found any answers to the Aboriginal health crisis?

0:57:160:57:22

I was speaking to a guy that said, the only thing that's going to improve Aboriginal health care

0:57:220:57:27

is if the World Health Organisation comes in and does something about it.

0:57:270:57:31

But I was thinking, well, he's maybe not that far wrong,

0:57:310:57:35

because this has gone on and on and on and on.

0:57:350:57:37

And you know, to white Australians listening to me talking like this,

0:57:370:57:42

some of them will be really, really angry and they'll say, "What the hell do you mean?"

0:57:420:57:47

But a lot of people don't actually know what's happening.

0:57:470:57:50

To be honest, I would be ashamed if I wasn't proactive

0:57:520:57:56

and really doing something about the situation,

0:57:560:58:02

not just here in Kununurra, but in all these Aboriginal communities, throughout Australia.

0:58:020:58:08

-Have you got everything?

-I think so.

0:58:090:58:11

Got everything?

0:58:150:58:16

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:420:58:46

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:460:58:49

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.


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