The Wellbeing Project

First Australians are more likely than other Australians to experience chronic kidney disease. The Wellbeing Project keeps patients from remote areas connected to their communities and culture by using their traditional knowledge in income-generating businesses.

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

Grinding Aratja with a stone

About the program

Indigenous Australians are much more likely to experience kidney disease than non-Indigenous Australians. This ‘gap’ in good health is greater in more remote areas and has been increasing since 2001.

Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku (‘making all our families well’) Aboriginal Corporation is a community-controlled Aboriginal Health Service that improves the lives of people with severe kidney disease in the Western Desert region.

Treatment for this life-threatening condition is expensive and difficult to deliver outside major towns and cities. Indigenous patients who live in remote areas are typically forced to travel a long way from home to receive proper treatment, known as dialysis.

Lorraine grinding Aratja to make bush balm

The Purple House in Alice Springs provides dialysis and a ‘home away from home’ for patients from remote areas. The Wellbeing Project helps patients remain connected to their country, family, culture and especially traditional healing practices, as they undergo treatment at the Purple House. This reduces the sense of dislocation patients can feel when away from their homes and families receiving treatment.

The Wellbeing Project not only helps patients with their medical needs, it also encourages them to embrace their culture through income-generating activities. It engages the expertise of patients, their families and communities in ‘sustainable social enterprises’. One business makes and sells traditional bush balms and soaps. Another is a catering service that uses traditional ingredients. 

Patients, who are usually elders, train younger people in traditional medicines so that cultural knowledge and skills are kept alive and passed on to future generations. The younger trainees are connected to culture, and also learn valuable skills as they manage and promote the business. By engaging families and younger people, the project sustains traditional knowledge and invests in future generations.

Sarah Brown with artist

Indigenous innovation, passion and compassion
Purple House is a great example of Aboriginal people identifying a problem, coming up with their solution, seeing it work and being incredibly proud. Hear an interview with Purple House's Sarah Brown, and find out how a book about artist Patrick Tjungurrayi is helping the Purple House.

Indigenous innovation, passion and compassion »


Nankamarra's story
Six years ago, Pintupi woman, Nankamarra, discovered she had kidney failure. With treatment hundreds of kilometres away, the Purple House in Alice Springs has become her second home. Traditional activities supported by Caritas Australia keep her connected to country and culture.

Read Nankamarra’s inspiring story »

Making all our families well
In 2013, the Purple House engaged 5 Indigenous trainees, 70 patients and around 200 family members. To understand fully why this organisation is so vital, we need to look at why it began. 

Making all our families well »

Program details

  • Issues: Indigenous rights; Health
  • Partner Agency: Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (The Purple House)
  • Funding in 2017/18 financial year: AU $110,000
  • Geographic location: Alice Springs, Western Desert region
  • When established: The Purple House established 2007; Program established May 2012