Caring for the community
13 Nov 2015 | Blog | Long-term Development | Australia
Len Gordon is from the Yiyili community near Halls Creek in Western Australia. Like many other First Australian communities, the Yiyili community has experienced high rates of diabetes, with many people losing family members to the disease.
Before Unity of First People of Australia (UFPA), one of Caritas Australia’s partners, started working with the community, there was a lot of misunderstanding about diabetes and what causes it.
Len describes the situation, “I had family members… getting sent to hospital, getting sick and we didn't know what was wrong with them. They were looking good on the outside but inside their health was deteriorating, it was failing them. Getting sick that way, and they got sent to big hospitals in Perth… and they didn't come back, we lost them, they died, we didn’t know what was wrong. They told us it was about diabetes, and we didn't know what diabetes was. We didn't know what causes it, we didn't know was there a cure for it, we didn't know how to handle it until we got involved with UFPA, and got involved with the Community Cultural Carer program here in the community.”
Recognising diabetes as a major issue facing communities, UFPA started the Australian Indigenous Wellness Program. Len first encountered the program when they visited his community to run a Community Health Assessment. At the invitation of communities, UFPA works with medical experts to provide screening for chronic diseases such as diabetes to community members.
Learning more about diabetes, the silent killer
We got involved with the job because of family; we wanted to learn more how we can control this silent killer that we call diabetes that is killing our mob.”
Since that screening, Len and his nephew Kamus became passionate to learn more about diabetes, and wanted to spread the word about it.
“Once having done the screening thing here, we started to get involved more with learning about diabetes, what UFPA is providing for these communities. And we got involved with the job because of family; we wanted to learn more how we can control this silent killer that we call diabetes that is killing our mob.”
So Len and Kamus signed up and took part in UFPA-run training sessions to become Community Cultural Carers. Community Cultural Carers are a core part of UFPA’s Australian Indigenous Wellness Program. They are members of the communities they work in, and they raise awareness of diabetes and provide education on how to reduce risk factors of the disease.
“My nephew Kamus, he tries to work in here in the school and that, with the youth, and every so often I work with the elders and everyone else up in the community, and have yarn up there and try to make them aware about diabetes and that you know, and what we can do to prevent, and how we can live healthy, better, healthier lives, now that we know what diabetes is all about… I think education is the key to spreading the message.”
They especially educate the community about the dangers of fast food, and the nutritional value of traditional foods. “We didn't know much about all this health thing… we thought it was good buying, spending our money in the shop. We started to forget about going out bush and hunting, doing traditional hunting, looking for bush tucker and all that thing you know. But we are trying to bring all that back again,” says Len.
Bridging the language barrier
If they don't understand what doctors and nurses are telling them about, we can go and explain to them in a broken down English, you know."
The Cultural Carers also provide valuable support to people who have diabetes, helping them understand the health system, and providing ongoing health advice.
“It's good doing this sort of job because at least we have got a couple of representatives, myself and my nephew, representatives from this community, you know… We don't have to have outside people telling them how, you know, telling us about our health… we have that language barrier thing, where we can't understand them, and they can't understand where we are coming from…
“If they don't understand what doctors and nurses are telling them about, we can go and explain to them in a broken down English, you know. We can tell them what this mob is trying to explain to them,” describes Len.
And what does he like most about being a Community Cultural Carer?
“The best I like about working as a Community Cultural Carer is sort of, it gives me a responsibility, you know, for my mob here you know, to spread the message about diabetes and how we can live better and healthier life style.”
Learn more about the Australilan Indigenous Wellness Program
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