NACCHO Renal Disease News : $10 Million Support for Central Australia Renal Patients

CtG breakfasat M Cooke T Calma and Nash

“Renal infrastructure, including accommodation for patients and members of their family, is important to ensure patients have access to dialysis and renal support services and the Australian Government will continue working with the Northern Territory Government to meet this critical need.

It was not good enough that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote Central Australia experience end stage renal disease at a rate 18 to 20 times higher than that of the wider Australian population. Also, they are on average at least 20 years younger than in other areas.”

The Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash

The new funding announced  compliments the Australian Government’s commitment of $1.4 billion over three years to continue the delivery of primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

File Picture Above the Minister with NACCHO chair Matthew Cooke and Dr Tom Calma at recent Close the Gap report launch in Canberra

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Central Australia are being further supported to access dialysis services.

The Federal Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, today announced that the Australian Government will provide $10 million over three years to the Northern Territory Government to develop accommodation in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs for end stage renal patients who need to relocate to access treatment.

“Renal infrastructure, including accommodation for patients and members of their family, is important to ensure patients have access to dialysis and renal support services and the Australian Government will continue working with the Northern Territory Government to meet this critical need,” Minister Nash said.

Minister Nash said it was not good enough that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote Central Australia experience end stage renal disease at a rate 18 to 20 times higher than that of the wider Australian population. Also, they are on average at least 20 years younger than in other areas.

“We must support people who already have renal disease, but also focus on prevention and effective management of chronic disease,” she said.

“This new funding will assist improved access to renal infrastructure in the remote communities of Docker River, Papunya and Mt Leibig, allowing patients who are able to remain in their communities.

“While the Northern Territory Government has responsibility for the delivery of dialysis and renal services, the Commonwealth is contributing infrastructure funding to support patients to have access to the renal care they require, where it is needed,” Minister Nash said.

Northern Territory Minister for Housing, Bess Price MLA, has welcomed the additional funding for central Northern Territory residents.

“This announcement is fantastic news for Central Australian Indigenous renal patients and their families as it will ensure increased access to housing and renal infrastructure closer to home,” Mrs Price said.

“There is a high level of need for these services in Central Australia and this funding will provide much needed support for patients to access appropriate housing, daily treatment and clinical support.

“As part of the funding, community housing will be provided in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek for Indigenous renal patients and their families or carers, who are required to relocate from remote communities of Central Australia, to access treatment for end-stage kidney disease.

“This project will also deliver two renal clinics – one each in Kaltukatjara and Papunya, and upgrades to the health clinic at Mt Liebig, allowing people to receive treatment in their own communities.

“We have listened to the needs of the people living remotely and I am proud to be supporting better services for the bush.”



NACCHO paying tribute to Yothu Yindi’s Mr M.Yunupingu an extraordinarily beautiful, generous person


Mr M Yunupingu was “an extraordinarily beautiful, generous person” whose passing was a loss to the Aboriginal and wider Australian communities

The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed has joined other Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal leaders paying to tribute to  former Yothu Yindi frontman Mr M Yunupingu who passed away at the age of 56 and stated that it highlighted  how common kidney disease and early deaths are in Aboriginal communities.

The former lead singer of indigenous band Yothu Yindi has died at his home in the Northern Territory.

Mr. M  Yunupingu  died aged 56 after a long battle with renal disease.

The singer, 56, was named Australian of the Year in 1992 for his role in building bridges of understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people

His older brother, Galarrwuy, also won the award in 1978.

Yothu Yindi was perhaps best known for the hit song Treaty, written in response to the Hawke government breaking a treaty with indigenous people.

But Yunupingu’s contributions as an educator were equally significant, she said, bringing awareness of Aboriginal issues to the education community.

Ms Burney NSW politician said Yunupingu’s death was a stark reminder Aboriginal people had high levels of kidney disease and lower life expectancy.

“I think that’s an important point to be made in this discussion and what will be said today about Mandawuy.

“We’ll all mourn his death but the truth is there’ll be a number of Aboriginal people that will die today across the country from renal disease.”

Ms Burney said death was all too prevalent in Aboriginal communities and families.

“It’s just there all the time and it’s from diseases and violence, all the things that beset first world people in this country with third world health outcomes.”

Last December, Mr M Yunupingu was taken to hospital after collapsing at home.

He had been fighting end-stage renal disease and had been undergoing dialysis.

A relative of Yunupingu, who did not wish to be identified, confirmed his death on Sunday night at his home, near Nhulunbuy.

Yunupingu was a Yolngu man and a well-known identity in Arnhem Land.

He became the lead singer in Yothu Yindi, which was formed in 1986, a group which created a blend of rock and traditional Aboriginal music.

It became so popular Yunupingu had to give up his teaching job.

Yunupingu was the first Aboriginal person from Arnhem Land to gain a university degree, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Deakin University in 1988.

In 1989 he became assistant principal of the Yirrkala Community School. In 1990 he took over as principal of that school, becoming the first Aboriginal principal in Australia. He held this position until late 1991, leaving to pursue his career with Yothu Yindi.

He always said he believed that life should be balanced and in harmony and that his mother taught him important Aboriginal ideas about how to live with people and with nature.

His name, Yunupingu, means rock – rock that stands against time.

Minister for School Education and former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett tweeted: “Can’t believe he’s gone, my dear friend. A path breaker and leader. A shining light for his people. Rest in peace Mr Yunupingu.”

Arts Minister, Tony Burke, said that Australia had lost one of its most important cultural figures.

“Tribal Voice has always been one of my favourite Australian albums,” Mr Burke said.

“Mr M  Yunupingu didn’t only create a fusion of musical styles and a celebration of Australian culture, he reached people in a way that only music can.

“The passing of Mr M Yunupingu is a sad day for Australian music and indigenous culture.”

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine said Yunupingu’s death was a tragedy and his thoughts went out to his family and the Yolngu people in north-east Arnhem Land.

‘‘He was an Australian of the Year, a national figure, a leader beyond the music stage,’’ Mr Mundine said.

‘‘He was an amazing man, like his brother, who came from an amazing family. Who would think that people in such isolated, small communities would have such an influence on the national and global stage? They’ve had a tremendous, positive influence beyond their own community.

‘‘It’s a very sad day and our heart goes out to the family.’’

Mr Mundine said Yunupingu’s death at such a young age also highlighted the health issues being experienced by indigenous Australians.

‘‘It is a wake-up call to us all that a bloke of his standing can die at such a tragic young age. It’s typical that it’s happening in indigenous communities,’’ he said.

‘‘I had heart surgery last year. This is a wake-up call to us really to look after our health and really look at our lifestyle. Our people die too young.’’

World Diabetes Day 14 Nov:Diabetes amongst Aboriginals at crisis point

Diabetes rates in Australia are high but its prevalence in the Indigenous population is between three and four times higher than the rest of the population.

And we are fast running out of time to stop this disease from creating a national disaster.

 From The coversation  Neale Cohen   

General Manager Diabetes Services, BakerIDI Heart and Diabetes Institute at Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute

Complications of diabetes include heart, eye, foot and kidney disease – and the complication rates in the Indigenous population are amongst the highest in the world. Kidney failure is one of the most devastating and it’s associated with very high mortality rates.

The risk of kidney failure among Indigenous people with diabetes is ten times higher than in non-Indigenous people with the disease. The higher rate of diabetes in the Indigenous population results from genetics, poverty and the lack of education and resources within this population, particularly in remote communities.

Kidney dialysis is the only way to treat the failure of the organ and it requires patients to attend a dialysis unit on a regular basis. Alice Springs has the unenviable reputation of hosting the largest kidney dialysis unit in the southern hemisphere. There are also a few small dialysis units in remote towns in the Northern Territory, but the number of patients needing dialysis is on the rise.

Dialysis often requires displacement from family, particularly for those living remotely. And many die while waiting for dialysis, or after finding the daily visits to a dialysis unit impossible to manage.

It’s little wonder then that resourcing Indigenous health generally and that of people with diabetes in particular is emerging as one of Australia’s most urgent health concerns. Despite our best efforts, diabetes is still on the rise and we are seeing many new cases and complications at a younger age.

Of great concern is the nature of diabetes in this population – it appears to be more aggressive and more resistant to conventional therapies. Complex treatment regimes are often needed but even they are rarely successful. Compliance with regular medications, such as once or twice daily insulin injections, and multiple tablets is very challenging, particularly in remote communities.

Seemingly simple issues such as regular meals, storage of insulin and tablets, and disposal of needles are not simple in outreach communities where priorities are more focused on acute health problems and day-to-day social issues. Home monitoring of blood glucose is critical for patients requiring insulin and other complex treatments – but this is not possible for most.

In my travels to remote settlements, I have seen children as young as 12 with type 2 diabetes (usually this is called mature onset diabetes occurring in older age groups). More worrying is the age of patients developing early kidney complications. I know of one young man aged 16 who already has signs of significant kidney disease and will no doubt head towards dialysis and death in the next ten to 15 years.

I have seen a young mother in her 30s progress from normal kidney function to kidney failure in five years. She now faces the prospect of life on dialysis. Many of my patients live with blood glucose levels in the 20 to 30 range (compared to a normal range of four to six), continuously without feeling too unwell. The long-term personal, social and economic consequences of this are, of course, devastating.

There’s a tsunami of kidney failure and other complications heading our way with many people having signs of early kidney damage, eye damage and heart disease. All these are associated with very poor control of their diabetes.

We have now reached a crisis point for the devastating effects of diabetes on Indigenous health. And while treatment of chronic disease in remote communities is challenging and complex, we must not be deterred.

Tiny clinics in remote towns need staff devoted to the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications. And communities need assistance at every level with the day-to-day management of this very complex disease.

Education and health promotion are critical in the long term but their health benefits may take decades. Clearly, we don’t have that sort of time. An emphatic response, firmly grounded in equity, compassion and human rights is needed to turn the tide of what will soon become a national disaster.