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Student story: Learning, walking and living on Mparntwe Country
Occupational therapy student Annabelle Keynes recounts her dream placement at Purple House in Mparntwe, Alice Springs; an experience she describes as ‘immersive and affirming’. From small acts of kindness delivered in tea cups to hearing tales and recollections from clients during long car trips southwest, Annabelle’s story is sure to inspire.
Palya! I have just completed a five-week occupational therapy placement with the primary health team at Purple House in Mparntwe, Alice Springs. Mparntwe, home to the Arrernte people, straddles the ephemeral Todd River, lined with ghost gums, and is surrounded by the Tjoritja (MacDonnell) Ranges.
Purple House is an Aboriginal-lead organisation that works with Aboriginal clients who have chronic kidney disease and are receiving dialysis treatment three times per week. It had been on my radar as an exciting placement prospect since 2020 when I commenced my studies.
Leading up to my placement, Anthony Albanese had also pledged to spend $30 million on better renal care in remote communities across the country. It felt like a poignant time to be working with the organisation.
Purple House has three sites in Mparntwe. I was primarily based at North Side, where a flurry of tea and toast is made every morning when clients arrive.
This simple offering seemed to be at the essence of Purple House: small acts of kindness, and a real push to create a non-clinical, homely environment.
There are endless opportunities to build genuine rapport with clients and provide holistic and culturally appropriate health care.
For instance, the clients share their concerns over a cup of tea, or around a fire outside, and they can be seen to by the allied health team available on site: nurses, GP, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.
Specialists such as ophthalmologists and podiatrists are regularly booked to be on site for a day to see clients.
Clients are also supported to see Ngangkari (traditional healers), and bush medicine is always available to them. Rachel, my OT supervisor, and I would prescribe assistive technology, help with social participation, run functional therapy activities such as painting or cooking kangaroo tail, and visit clients in hospital to help with their rehabilitation program.
We also travelled to two remote communities, spending several days in Yuendumu, Warlpiri Country, visiting aged-care clients at their homes, where we exchanged stories over cups of tea, typically on people’s front verandas, and often beside a fire to keep warm.
We brought donated beanies and bush balms with us and could gift these to clients as we prescribed assistive technology to help with their mobility.
We also travelled to Kaltukatjara, Pitjantjatjara Country with two Purple House clients that wanted to spend time with their family on Country. It was an eight-hour trip to the southwest pocket of NT, past Uluru and Kata Tjuta on washboard roads.
The hours passed quickly as Kumanara, growing with excitement, shared stories of his childhood, the history of Kaltukatjara and life as a local policeman. Kaltukatjara is a very beautiful community surrounded by eucalypts and big, rocky ranges. Rachel and I spent an extra day there visiting dialysis clients before making the return trip back to Mparntwe.
My placement with Purple House was both immersive and affirming. After two years of online study in Naarm (Melbourne), I was grateful to finally put learnt skills into practice.
During the five weeks I was able to build rapport with incredible people; witness considered, culturally appropriate health care; learn an extensive amount; and feel well and truly a part of the Purple House family.
Please visit www.purplehouse.org.au/our-story to learn more about the incredible work Purple House do.
Deepest respect to the Arrernte People, on whose land I learnt, walked, and lived upon during my placement. For Kumanara. Forever home in Kaltukatjara.
This CRANAplus Undergraduate Remote Placement Scholarship was sponsored by AussieWide Economy Transport. Visit Awards, Scholarships & Grants to learn more about grants and scholarships available through CRANAplus.