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Indigenous residents living in a remote area of South Australia are now able to access vital dialysis services in a new clinic. 

After a decade of campaigning, the first dialysis center opened this week in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY), allowing patients to stay on their traditional lands and remain connected to family. Previously, people were forced to move thousands of kilometers away to receive treatment in Alice Springs or Adelaide. 

The new dialysis center was constructed by Purple House, an entirely Indigenous-run organization which has established dialysis units in remote Indigenous communities around Australia since 2004. 

"For people from remote communities, moving to a regional centre like Alice Springs for dialysis is often a stressful and scary experience. They are far away from family and country, feeling sick and confused while having to negotiate the health care system,” Purple House states on its website. “Purple House runs 14 remote dialysis clinics, enabling people to get back to their country and family.”

Yanyi Bandicha, an Anangu woman and director of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, said residents of APY — a population of around 2,300 — had been advocating for their own dialysis clinic for close to a decade.

Local artists, Bandicha added, have sold paintings to help raise $170,000 AUD toward the $2.5 million needed for the clinic.

"I saw a lot of our people going to Alice Springs for renal dialysis. I had a brother, cousin, and sister and also my husband who was on renal in Alice Springs,” she told SBS News. “There were a lot of people who were living in Alice Springs going to renal dialysis there and at the same time they were fighting for dialysis to be put in the center in Pitjantjatjara land.” 

Dialysis treatment is required for kidney disease and kidney failure.

When the kidneys stop working, individuals are no longer able to flush toxins and excess fluid out of their body. The dialysis treatment sees patients connect to a dialysis machine — as often as three times a week for five hours — which works to manually remove, filter, and return blood to the body. 

Indigenous Australians are 10 times more likely than non-Indigenous individuals to have kidney disease, which can be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, poor nutrition, and high alcohol intake. 

In certain remote communities, that percentage can reach 50 times the national average. 

So far, seven patients have returned home to their traditional lands to continue treatment at the new center.


Defeat Poverty

This Remote Indigenous Community in South Australia Just Received a Dialysis Clinic

By Madeleine Keck