Brooke Adair

Physiotherapist, Australian Catholic University

"In order to ‘close the gap’ and ensure that all Australians have access to the same level of health care, this is what is needed."

I’m not sure that I can adequately put into words the experience that I had in Arnhem land. Professionally it was hard. The nursing and medical staff were busy trying to keep people alive and prevent early mortality and morbidity, making it hard to push the importance of physio-based issues. That said, in order to ‘close the gap’ and ensure that all Australians have access to the same level of health care, this is what is needed. I think that SOS Health have fantastic potential to continue building a service that (until recently) did not exist, to educate health professionals about healthcare in remote indigenous communities and ultimately help to improve the lives of people living in Homelands in NE Arnhem land. I have always been interested in being involved in aid/humanitarian work, but when I have looked into it have found that organisations typically do not want to engage with physiotherapists and are generally focussed on improving the lives of people in other countries. I think the challenges of NE Arnhem Land could be my way of helping to be involved in humanitarian work, while also helping fellow Australians.

The visit to the Homelands of NE Arnhem Land also had a huge impact on me personally. I guess I have always felt a little bit ashamed of my ancestry as a white person in Australia and have been worried about the loss of culture that many indigenous people face. If I had stuck to visiting the bigger communities it is likely that this feeling would have continued. That’s why visiting the Homelands was so important. Seeing first-hand the shift in the way of life – living more off the land, hunting, fishing, access to bush medicine – was heartening. At times communication was difficult but even that made me happy as it meant that native languages were maintained. I think the heat, dust, culture, people and scenery of NE Arnhem Land have all got under my skin and helped to strengthen my resolve to try and help.