Australian Indigenous Wellness Program

Diabetes among First Australians has become the leading accelerator of mortality rates and is three times more prevalent among First Australians than other Australians.1 Through our partner Unity of First People of Australia (UFPA) Caritas is investing in remote communities of the Kimberley to lead the way in tackling these health challenges.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains images and names of people who have since passed away.

Len and Kamus looking at photos

About the program

The Australian Indigenous Wellness Program was established by Caritas Australia's partner, Unity of First People of Australia (UFPA), an Aboriginal organisation that addresses diabetes and other chronic diseases, promoting healthy lifestyles in remote Aboriginal communities of the Kimberley.

Community Cultural Carers

The Australian Indigenous Wellness Program is built upon UFPA’s Community Cultural Carers, who work within their own communities to develop Health Plans and undertake activities that utilise their strengths and address the physical, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of their community.

The activities undertaken by the Cultural Carers include providing awareness and support for their people who are sick with diabetes and chronic diseases, providing education, especially for young people, about the dangers of fast foods and the nutritional value of their traditional foods, supporting people to understand the health system and health advice, supporting community members to spend time on country where they are both spiritually refreshed and physically active, providing education and support to children and mothers for nutrition and healthy meal preparation, mentoring young people and building self-esteem, and providing educational materials for pre-school aged children.

UFPA Program Officers and Administration staff support the Community Cultural Carers with training, advocacy, resources, and networking opportunities with one another so that they can share ideas and learn from each others’ experiences.

Community Health Assessments

Another key element of UFPA’s work is undertaking Community Health Assessments. At the invitation of a community, UFPA works in partnership with the Community Council and medical experts from around Australia to screen for chronic diseases including diabetes and its risk factors. Significantly, community members are able to get the results of their screening on the same day, allowing them to be well informed about their health status. Almost all of UFPA’s screenings are well attended and, unfortunately, identify new cases of diabetes and other chronic diseases. These screenings are often the launch pad for the Cultural Carer program.

Ernie BridgeUnity of First People of Australia is the legacy of the late Ernie Bridge, country singer and former member for the Kimberley. Through our partnership with UFPA, Caritas has been enriched by Ernie’s life. Ernie's vision was for Australia’s First People to unite in order to learn from one another and lead the way in addressing the challenges they face. The work of UFPA is a living testimony to the power of that vision.

Program details

  • Issues: Indigenous rights; Health; Education
  • Partner Agency: Unity of First People of Australia (UFPA)
  • Funding in 2014/15 financial year: AU $150,000
  • Geographic location: Remote areas of the Kimberley region
  • When established: 2003

Audrey and kids from the Diabetes Management and Care program

Audrey’s story

Audrey is a Bardi woman from Djarindjin, a remote community 200km north of Broome in Western Australia.

As is sadly true of many First Australian communities, the rates of deadly ‘lifestyle’ diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure run high in Djarindjin. Just a few years ago the diabetes rates in Audrey’s community were well over 30 percent; many times higher than the Australian average.

Read Audrey's inspiring story »

1 In 2004-2005, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare