Tom West

Physiotherapist, Back In Motion Sydenham (VIC)

"Looking at the surrounds, I felt as far from Melbourne as ever, yet each person I met made me feel welcome and at home."

Arriving in Gove on the first day, I was picked up by a four-wheel-drive covered in red dirt. This would take us to Yirrkala, an indigenous community, our home for the next week. A two hour journey on the same day saw us travelling from Yirrkala to a Homeland of around forty to fifty Yolgnu people. We set up a “clinic” on the verandah of the two room school. Here, outdoors in the over thirty-degree heat, people came to see the doctor, the nurse and, on this day, me, the physiotherapist.

Looking at the surrounds, I felt as far from Melbourne as ever, yet each person I met made me feel welcome and at home. This would be my experience for the entire week, as the Yolngu invited me into their community, into their homes and into their lives.

With the Laynha Health staff and local health workers I was able to gain an insight into what living in this remote area was like. The health problems of these indigenous people are an amplification of urban Australia. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infections are only a few of many that are far too common.

Naively, I expected to meet people that were broken physically and mentally, but the people I met were hopeful, grateful and happy. I hope I get the opportunity to return as a volunteer physio so that I can continue to have a positive and significant impact. Just as importantly I hope to kick around the footy again on the red dirt of NE Arnhem Land.