NACCHO Stroke Resources News :Indigenous stroke survivor campaigns for culture to aid in stroke recovery


“It can happen to anyone — stroke doesn’t discriminate against colour, it doesn’t discriminate against age.

Maths isn’t a good way to see if someone with a cultural background is improving in recovery.

Seith Fourmile, Indigenous stroke survivor

Seith Fourmile says testing Indigenous stroke survivors recognition of native plants and seasonal changes is better suited than testing them with more traditional methods of stroke rehabilitation.

ABC Far North: Mark Rigby


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In what can only be described as a cruel twist of fate, Cairns Indigenous elder Seith Fourmile (Gudju Gudju) suffered a major stroke while working as a cultural advisor to a far north Queensland brain injury association.

“I actually had a blood vessel burst in my brain so, I became one of those people,” Mr Fourmile said.

“I went into method acting where I was actually in the hospital bed going through what people with acquired brain injuries go through.

“I spent quite a few months not being able to walk at all, just bed ridden.”

It was during this time Mr Fourmile realised the challenges traditional means of recovery presented to Indigenous stroke survivors.

As a qualified electrician, he had no problems dealing with the mathematical equations medical staff asked him, to measure the effect the stroke had had on his brain, but they got him thinking.

“If somebody didn’t go to school, they’d find it hard and if they couldn’t do those types of maths equations they’d be seen as not improving,” he said.

“[Indigenous Australians] are used to plants and animals and could probably name all the different seasons as we know them in our culture and let people know what’s around at that time.

“Maths isn’t a good way to see if someone with a cultural background is improving in recovery.”

In conjunction with Synapse, the brain injury association he still works with, Mr Fourmile is developing a seasonal calendar which can be used to measure the recovery of Indigenous stroke survivors.

“As soon as [they see] the wattle is flowering, they’ll know what’s out in the ocean, whether the mullet is fat, whether the shellfish are fat,” he said.

“A lot of Indigenous people can relate to those seasons and it’ll trigger that memory.”

For the work he has done, Mr Fourmile has been nominated for an award in the ‘Improving Life After Stroke’ category in the 2015 National Stroke Foundation Awards.

“I’m overwhelmed that I’ve been nominated for an award … I’ve never been nominated for any award, ever,” he said.

The best part of being nominated however was the opportunity it gave him to spread awareness of stroke in the wider community.

“It can happen to anyone — stroke doesn’t discriminate against colour, it doesn’t discriminate against age,” Mr Fourmile said.

“If the nomination means I get to educate more people about stroke, then so be it; that’s great.”

Facts and figures about stroke

  1. Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability.
  2. 1 in 6 people will have a stroke in their lifetime. These people are someone’s sister, brother, wife, husband, daughter, son, partner, mother, father… friend. Behind the numbers are real lives.
  3. In 2015 there will be more than 50,000 new and recurrent strokes – that is 1000 strokes every week or one stroke every 10 minutes.
  4. In 2012 there were nearly130,000 or 30% of stroke survivors under the age of 65 in the community. [In 2012 there were over 420,000 people living with the effects of stroke and 30% of these people were of working age.]
  5. In 2015 there will be almost 440,000 people living with the effects of stroke. This is predicted to increase to 709,000 in 2032.
  6. Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer.
  7. 65% of those living with stroke also suffer a disability that impedes their ability to carry out daily living activities unassisted.
  8. In 2012, the total financial costs of stroke in Australia were estimated to be $5 billion.
  9. The estimate of $49.3 billion in burden of disease costs for stroke is comparable to the $41 billion burden of disease costs that Deloitte Access Economics estimated for anxiety and depression in 2010.
  10. The FAST test is an easy way to recognise and remember the signs of stroke. Using the FAST test involves asking these simple questions:

Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

Arm Can they lift both arms?

Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

Time Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call 000 straight away

Stroke recovery information

My Stroke Journey has all the information you need immediately after a stroke. It explains the different types of stroke, and provides details about stroke treatment and care. My Stroke Journey also provides information about leaving hospital and the services and support available.

Our fact sheets provide more detail on a range of topics, including:

Post Stroke Checklist

This Post-Stroke Checklist has been developed to help you talk to your healthcare team, acting as a prompt for common problems experienced by people post-stroke. Fill it out and take it with you to each visit and raise relevant questions with your team.


Call StrokeLine for more information on 1800 787 6531800 787 653 FREE or email

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Editors Note : On World Stroke Day 29 October the editor of NACCHO Communique Colin Cowell had a stroke and was admitted in “15 minutes ” to Calvary Hospital Canberra where he had extensive treatment and support over 7 days from the stroke team lead by Dr Ramesh Sahathevan : Now on the long road to recovery : PS Agree with Seith Fourmile about those tests

One comment on “NACCHO Stroke Resources News :Indigenous stroke survivor campaigns for culture to aid in stroke recovery

  1. As a 64 years old Aboriginal non-smoking, non-drinking woman, I have survived stroke and currently manage the loss of my peripheral vision (left side). I found this a challenge, but have learned to compensate.  I now use a shopping trolley when moving through large shopping centres, if I don’t, I found other shoppers will rush past me or cut across my path quickly on my left. I have tripped a person who overtook me on my left. When I asked, my AMS GP told me I didn’t need a cane (as a prop) to let other people know I have a vision impairment.I have a friend who recently had a stroke (second one) and when she was in hospital, a stroke education nurse provided us with a presentation and information pack on life after stroke.  Neither of us had seen any of this information in spite of regular GP and specialist visits (they were quick to pull out the prescription pad for medication).It seems to me that the medical practitioners treating me work to a prescriptive process which has too many gaps, when a holistic process would be more effective.Also, the ‘eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise’ is too vague.  Firstly, food on the food pyramid is far from healthy. There are many processed foods on the pyramid, including processed oils, bread  I also have diabetes type 2, high blood pressure and my cholesterol is ‘high’.  My GP prescribed medication to lower my BP, then prescribed medication to lower my cholesterol.  One of the side effects of the cholesterol medication is to raise BP, I took the medication as prescribed and found my BP was higher than before, from 121/80 -149/86 to 140/77 – 171/92.  I spoke to the GP and was told to keep taking the medication, as 160 was OK.  I questioned the logic of taking medications to lower my BP and taking another medication that raises my BP.  At another medical clinic, I was told that I had diabetes ‘because you are Aboriginal’.I struggle to maintain my confidence in GPs.  in my experience I feel decisions are made to maximise medication uptake and minimise information rather than improved health outcomes for me.I wish I had this email when I had my stroke (July 2014), as all I got from my GP was medication.  I have been managing my recovery on my own and currently I am being pressured by my job network to meet my Centrelink obligations to find work – I’m on Newstart (and turn 65 in September next year).Anyway, I have to a large degree, worked out what works for me (water, bread and grain products) causes my bsl to rise, meditation and deep breathing lower my BP.Thanks for the info, I will certainly use it – better late than never.regardsRuth

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