Nankamarra: our place

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. With Caritas Australia's support, she is able to stay connected to her country and culture and pass on her traditional knowledge to younger generations.

There is a big mob of Aboriginal people working here. It is our place; we are welcome all the time."

Nankamarra grew up in Papunya, 300km west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Six years ago, after being diagnosed with kidney failure, Nankamarra, 39, learnt that she had to undergo a lifetime of weekly dialysis treatment.

Deeply connected to culture, her mob and their dreaming, she is now living in a hostel in Alice Springs to receive treatment and desperately misses home. “I have to sleep indoors all the time. Someone cooks our food and cleans our rooms. I have no family here. I stick to myself. I am homesick.”

To keep her spirit alive, Nankamarra visits The Purple House which was established in 2004 by Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation to support First Australian patients who have been dislocated from country and culture.

Caritas Australia is supporting a new income-generating social enterprise at the Centre – making and selling bush balms.

“My favourite balm is Irremenke Irremenke. It is a good bush medicine that our grandmothers used to make. It is good for pain and headaches. It is a cheeky plant, it is hard to find and hard to grow. I love the smell of the bush balm mix boiling up. It reminds me of home,” said Nankamarra.

This bush balm program offers people aged 23-75 who are chronically unwell, a sense of purpose, comfort and wellbeing. It gives them the opportunity to pass on traditional knowledge and values, ensuring participants retain their connections with home.

Until the doctors say that Nankamarra is palya (good) and she is able to receive local treatment, The Purple House and the bush balm program is her home away from home.

There are young people learning these things too. That is good, so the old ways are not lost."

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