Purple House making families well on Country

  • Purple truck on a red dirt track

Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation is the official name for what is now more commonly known as the Purple House. The Purple House is an organisation dedicated to getting First Nations Peoples from remote communities back home on Country through the delivery of renal services. Its conception, design and delivery are based firmly in the values of Yanangu. It remains entirely Indigenous-owned and run, with an all-Yanangu Board of Directors who are elected by its members.

A translation of the Purple House’s official title means ‘making all our families well’. This is also the vision statement for the organisation. Since its beginnings in 2000, Purple House has concentrated on addressing the epidemic of renal disease inflicting remote First Nations communities. It has done this effectively and successfully, vastly improving the quality of life and life expectancy of renal patients. It is now possible to say that, in this space, the Purple House has not only closed the gap but has opened a gap on the national average.

The Purple House now operates 19 permanent remote dialysis clinics and two mobile units called Purple Trucks. The success of the model has led to an expansion of services, which now include aged care, disability, primary health and social support. However, there remains a constant call from other remote communities to support their needs as well.

While the opening of a remote dialysis unit brings great joy to the fortunate community, the Directors of the Purple House carry the broader vision of its founders towards ’making all our families well’. This requires a concentrated and continued focus on the preventive side of health, but from an Yanangu perspective. Building upon their success with the Purple House – secure in and committed to their values – Yanangu are confident that, if the future of their health and wellbeing is firmly in their grasp and at their direction, then the disparity in health outcomes between Yanangu and non-Indigenous Australians can be significantly reduced.

The Purple House Strategic Plan (2019–2022) outlines the core values underlying the philosophy and practice of the organisation. These values are listed as Walytja, Tjukurrpa, Ngurra and Kuunyi. This current plan provides a simple explanation of these terms as family, dreaming, country and compassion, respectively. However, what it is unable to articulate is the complexity, interrelatedness and profundity of these values in the lives of Yanangu. These values carry a depth of knowledge and not only ascribe what it means to be Yanangu, but also define and determine the health and wellbeing of Yanangu.

It is based upon these values, and their knowledge of the intricate and intimate nature of these values in the lives of Yanangu, that the Purple House Directors now look to the future and the full restoration of the health and wellbeing of their families. To this end, they have reinvigorated the community-based participatory action research project which first brought these values to light (Keeffe, 1992) and the Purple House into existence. The Yanangu researchers initially involved with Keeffe are now community elders. They were given direction and knowledge from their elders almost 40 years ago. Affirmed by its demonstrated efficacy and success in a contemporary world, these current elders and leaders now wish to pass this knowledge and direction on to a younger generation of emerging leaders – and for them to continue the struggle in ‘making all our families well’.

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