The two-day Indigenous Voices Yarning ‘Kidney Health’ consultation brought researchers and nurses together with Aboriginal people with kidney diseases to discuss the best ways to improve kidney care.
An art session was held during the first day of the consultation, giving those with kidney problems the chance to paint on an old renal dialysis machine.
Inawintji Williamson painted the story of her life on the machine using traditional Aboriginal art techniques, with the help of her nieces, Kani George and Rhoda Tjitayi.
The painting follows her journey from growing up in the Fregon community in the APY Lands with her family, to becoming the Chairperson of both Kaltjiti Arts and Ananguku Arts, to then being told by a doctor that she had a kidney problem.
The final section of the painting focuses on Ina’s move to Adelaide, where she has lived for more than 10 years following her diagnosis.
Ina offered some advice to those suffering from kidney problems.
“Don’t leave it too late to get your dialysis. Get it done early,” she said. “Don’t miss your dialysis.”
The consultation presented an opportunity to improve the guidelines used by doctors, nurses and other health professionals of how to best treat kidney diseases.
The guidelines previously did not include cultural aspects of care or specific needs for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people.
Kidney Health Australia and the Improving Aboriginal Kidney Care Together Research used the consultation to discuss what should be in the guidelines and how those ideas can be executed to improve kidney care locally.
Kidney Health Australia Indigenous Coordinator Dora Oliva and University of Adelaide Researcher Janet Kelly said their organisations were working together to improve Aboriginal kidney care.
“New guidelines are being written, which are totally new and specific to Aboriginal communities,” Ms Oliva said.
“That will inform local services here, as well as statewide services,” Ms Kelly added. “We’re also working on some national kidney guidelines on how to care for Indigenous people with kidney disease, so the information here will also help inform the international guidelines.”
Port Augusta Hospital’s Nurse Unit Manager for the Dialysis Unit Kylie Herman said there is a higher risk for Aboriginal patients to experience kidney failure.
“We see more and more patients coming from remote Aboriginal communities to have their dialysis because the prevalence of kidney failure is increasing all the time,” Ms Herman said.
“Aboriginal patients are at the highest risk, so we want to raise awareness so they can prevent getting onto dialysis.”
Known as the ‘silent disease’, kidney disease often has no warning signs, with many people not knowing they have it until it is far along.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, drinking enough water and limiting alcohol consumption are some of the ways to prevent kidney disease.