Art Sale Helps APY People Return Home

A “wildly successful” art auction held in Adelaide as a part of the Tarnanthi Festival means that people with kidney disease in the APY lands will be able return home to their families and communities.

The Purple House Art Auction, held at Tandanya this week, saw works created by artists from across the APY Lands sold to support the establishment of the first permanent dialysis service in remote South Australia.

The auction, which was coordinated by the APY Art Collective, raised $169,300.The sale completes fundraising to open a permanent dialysis service in the Pukatja (Ernabella) community.

Purple House CEO Sarah Brown said that it was an emotional afternoon at Tandanya, but she was thrilled at the outcome.

“By the end of it there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. There were artists who’d lost family on dialysis, who’d never got home, there were people there who were on dialysis in Adelaide who were dreaming of going home. It was really emotional. Everyone who bought things were crying. Everyone who helped organise it were crying.We were all crying but they were happy tears” she told Aboriginal Way.

Reaching the fundraising goal for the new service is significant because of the high prevalence of kidney disease in Aboriginal communities and the need for people with kidney disease to regularly undertake dialysis.

“So when your kidneys have failed, you need dialysis three times a week for the rest of your life, as a minimum. And its five hours on the machine with your blood going through and getting cleaned” Ms Brown explained

The large distances between regional centres or capital cities, where most dialysis services are located, and communities has a big impact on the lives of Aboriginal people with kidney disease.

“Kintore is seven hours drive from Alice Springs, Pukatja is five hours, quite rough roads.

“So people basically have to pack up their lives and move either to Alice or Darwin or Perth or Adelaide. Sometimes they’re bringing their families with them, who are leaving their jobs and their schools to try and make a life in a capital city. Sometimes they’re coming by themselves and they are incredibly homesick and lonely. Life becomes all about waiting for your next dialysis day, waiting for family to come and pick you up, waiting to die.

Marlene Spencer is a Director of Purple House and was one of the community members who first took the initiative to establish remote dialysis services in Northern Territory communities.

“Because from the start, people dying from the kidney disease, we seen a lot of people in our country, in Kintore. That’s why we’re worrying so much for family, not just for my family, any family” she said.

“Our people pass away, a lot of people. And we talked to our people – we got to wake up and do something, you know. People getting sick – old people, middle aged, young ones too, will be one day young people. That’s why we keep going helping people, all of the community” Ms Spencer explained.

As well as the personal factors, having people in their own homes has an impact on each small community, Ms Brown explained

“It’s incredibly important that people are back on community and looked after by their family and that they’re passing on their cultural heritage to their kids and their grandkids, looking after sacred sites, looking after the country, and being there for ceremony and sorry business. Because that’s how the culture is passed on.

“There’s a real risk that if people aren’t given the opportunity to return to country that this vital cultural knowledge, which has been passed on from generation to generation will actually be lost” Ms Brown said.

Ms Brown believes that that loss also has an impact on the wider community.

“That won’t just be a great loss to individuals, families and communities but to the whole Australian community. I mean you just have to go around Adelaide at the moment with Tarnanthi on to see the creativity and rich culture and living languages that are a gift to all Australians and it’s really important that we find ways to celebrate and honour that and make sure that gets passed on” she said.

Community based fundraising efforts like this week’s art auction have been a staple of the Purple House’s history, however a review of Medicare currently underway could see more reliable sources of Government funding.

“There’s been a committee set up recommending that a new Medicare item number be set up for a dialysis done in a remote community and it’s got lots of support, and bipartisan support, across Government and Opposition.

“So we’re really hoping that’s going to go ahead soon, but up until then things like the auction yesterday mean that we can push on ahead and get things open and get some people home ” Ms Brown said.

The opening of the first service in the APY Lands has been a long time coming and it was fitting that the APY Art Collective, which represents seven art centres across the lands, finally made it happen according to Ms Brown.

“People from the APY Lands have been asking for help with this for a long time, and they’ve been really keen to have something they could do to help us to get it going, and this auction was something that everyone could get really enthusiastic about and really excited about” she said.

“Now we’ve got a date that we’re working towards, they’ve raised the money that will get the nurses employed and get people home.

That collaboration across communities of Aboriginal people is unique and powerful, Ms Brown says.

“This is a story about Aboriginal people having a problem, coming up with their own solutions, seeing it be a resounding, howling success and then being able to help other people do the same thing. This is about Aboriginal people having agency over their lives, and being able to have some hope and optimism for the future of their communities, and making sure that their grandkids get to learn the right way from the right people. And it’s about families looking after each other, it’s fabulous” she said.


top:  Marlene Spencer, Director Purple House Western Dialysis Service

middle:  Purple House art auction at Tandanya, Sunday 13 October 2017

By Lucy Kingston 

SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.