Tjutangku Kanyintjaku: looking after all our people

  • Craft day at Purple House
    Craft day at Purple House
  • Emily Dunn (Purple House). Rhonda Bob preparing roo tails (Purple House)
    Emily Dunn (Purple House). Rhonda Bob preparing roo tails (Purple House)
Grace Barry
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Grace Barry
Tjutangku Kanyintjaku Coordinator,
Purple House
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Rates of chronic kidney disease in Central Australia are disproportionately high. Life on dialysis is tough. For many people it means living off country, away from their homes and families - spending 5 hours a day, 3 days a week hooked up to a dialysis machine and attending other medical appointments in between. Amidst of all this, it is important to keep your spirit alive and do things that make you feel good. This is a huge part of what we do at Purple House.

An innovative Aboriginal-owned and run health service operating from a base in Alice Springs, Purple House is all about helping people live a good life and having plenty of fun in the process! This year marks 20 years since the incorporation of Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (known as Purple House), a Pintupi name that means ‘making all our families well’. Over two decades, we have grown from a single dialysis chair in Kintore to operating dialysis clinics in 19 remote communities across the NT, WA and SA - with six more on the way! These remote dialysis units enable people with advanced kidney disease to get home on country and have been a major factor in improving health outcomes. We also expanded to provide Social Support, Aged Care, NDIS, Primary Healthcare services and a bush medicine social enterprise as part of a holistic model of care to support people living away from home.

As Tjutangku Kanyintjaku Coordinator, my role translates to ‘looking after all our people’. There are lots of ways that people can keep the spirit alive; exercising, eating good food, sharing stories, sitting around the fire, cooking ‘roo tails, getting outside and being on Country, spending time with family, self-care, arts and crafts, playing games and laughing with friends. These are just a few of the things we do at Purple House. We are guided by our clients; they know what’s best for them. They let us know what they want to do, we just help to create the opportunities for the fun to happen.

We do weekly group exercise in our gym; changing it up some weeks with a yoga class, swimming at the town pool or local waterhole, or a bush trip. Earlier this year we went to Emily Gap, about 10kms out of Mparntwe (Alice Springs). Clients of all abilities moved their bodies with boxing, dumb-bells and walking. There was music, ‘roo tails and veggies on the fire, sweat, laughs and yarns about how strong we all are. The power of being outside, feeling the sunshine on your skin or sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and some good yarns is magic for our mental health.

Good nutrition is important for people on dialysis and food brings us so much joy. Every day we offer breakfast and lunch to all our clients coming into Purple House, and regularly ask our clients for feedback on the meals so we ensure we keep providing good food that people enjoy. Next year we hope to start cooking groups and recipe books of the meals made together.

Caring for all our people means looking after our staff as well. Part of my role involves working closely with staff who may need a little extra support, and navigating challenges that might arise for some to work. In 2024, my goal is to expand the amount and variety of health, wellbeing and fun that we can create and deliver so that we can continue to make all our families well. 

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