Updated: May 18, 2020
I apologise in advance if the nature of this article unearths any painful memories for anyone reading it. But let's stop beating around the bush. When it comes to Indigenous health - govt, pharma and medical groups are putting it to good dollar value use by promoting all things toxic with huge expensive bandaids; man-made symptom/disease focus while forgetting one little thing: traditional diet was supremely healthy. Australia's First Nations were fit and free of western disease.
Prevention, a word that was once used to apply to natural health activities: bush medicine, local herbal, and so on, has now been warped to be part of orthodoxy, just as the word Traditional has been done in the past. Rather than join hands with what they deem to be alternatives, medical sciences have worked as hard behind the scenes to crush what they see as opposition rather than complimentary, just as they have done with the Indigenous groups for centuries.
I would like to direct your attention to Indigenous Health in this instance; something at the fore of my practice for a number of decades, as in most situations, without funding or outside support.
As a nurse in the 80s, I saw one too many Aboriginal people die needlessly, prematurely and in the most horrific and unnecessary circumstances. Yes, this was some time ago, but despite my appeals to so-called medical leaders, media and government back then, knowing the gap has only widened shows little real effective effort is being done by those who pull the purse strings, while those who are dying just to make a change are still swimming against the tide. I have seen countless very promising programs come and go without anything other than a patronising nod to those who could make the change, by those too busy slapping themselves on the back for good deeds they never did.
In the new century I have countless friends who are working 24/7 to help community, in health and mental health care, homelessness, suicide and domestic violence left without funding, while the same (usually renamed) fatcat groups continue to suck coffers dry without doing a thing for actual Indigenous communities.
The following is a tiny portion of what I have witnessed professionally -
One doctor who was mistakenly seen as sympathetic to local Aboriginals refused point blank to agree over the phone to life-saving pharmaceutical use which would have saved the life of one lady. He also refused to come into hospital and administer treatment during the night HE was on call, while forbidding to verbally approve the nurse in charge from taking action (even though she was more than capable; if she had acted, she would have been struck off or even charged). Prognosis was grim simply because he refused to say one word - yes. This dear lady died slowly, over a matter of hours, as her husband pleaded for her life. The next day I witnessed this same doctor make it to the hospital within 7 minutes of being called to tend to a wealthy caucasian woman in the next bed; something that we mere nurses could have taken care of without his assistance.
A dehydrated baby, needing no more than IV fluids and electrolytes during a local flood (we currently had a hospital full of other similar cases that were responding favourably). The person in charge who mistakenly called himself an Indigenous expert, insisted on a lumbar puncture. The baby was 4 months old, had no symptoms of meningitis as this doctor tried to insist. I, along with a few other staff members, took the time to investigate his records and found that many unapproved drugs were being used on the babies of unsuspecting Indigenous locals; I had also witnessed him advising young mothers that their babies would die if they were not given certain medications when this was not even close to the truth. Most of these babies were simply coming in for post-natal check ups and had no health issues to begin with. No consideration was given to bush medicine which had allowed generations to thrive throughout history. Of the most damning note was that this doctor did not conduct Indigenous clinics; we nurses took these. He flew into town once a fortnight to only conduct non-Indigenous patient consults. Most alarmingly, this doctor is now deemed to be head of Indigenous Health nationwide and not only teaches Indigenous Medicine but teaches Indigenous students, training them up to perpetuate the mass destruction of our Indigenous across the country, under the misguided belief they are making a difference.
One elderly man came into hospital with an infected knee. Simple debriding and low dose antibiotics were all that were required medically, yet this doctor insisted on a dosage 4 times the standard practice to test the tolerance of this individual. In all my years of nursing practice, I had never once seen such a high dose used on a non-Indigenous individual as it was considered too harsh. His delicate immune and digestive balance, destroyed just because this sick individual wanted to test a theory. I remain friends with this elder's family and was as saddened as I was frustrated at his slow and shockingly painful deterioration; unable to do a thing without proof or board backing.
Doctors invariably argued against our (the nurses') suggestions that fast food and the poor white man's diet inflicted destruction, sickness and slow death upon Indigenous people from the time of invasion. Fast forward 3 horrific decades of unnecessary decline in Indigenous health and today's wonderful award-winning team boasting of closing the gap have discovered that a traditional diet works best and are trying to encourage generations who have not been raised on a healthy diet, to now revert to lost knowledge that takes real effort and dedication.
It was well known while working in the Kimberley that tribal people had a delicate layer of oils which coated and protected their skin; they rarely had infections or skin afflictions as this was a barrier to pathogens and injury. Yet when they were brought into hospital they were scrubbed with soaps that paid no attention to the delicate pH - effectively stripping the layer, usually descending into triggering skin disorders and ongoing infections.
During blanket vaccination assaults across the top end of Australia, official records show epidemic infant mortality rates after vaccination; records to this day do not show anything questionable, even though those children were healthy when vaccinated. These same records were used to prove the efficacy of vaccines and those numerous deaths were put down to disease rather than manslaughter. The doctor who exposed it, Dr Archie Kalokerinos was discredited and run out of practice, eventually dying abroad and today is lampooned in medical school both as a warning to new students as an example of what happens when you step out of line in truth, and as a baby killer as I was recently informed by a WA doctor. The research proves unequivocably that vaccine damage is more prevalent in Indigenous communities but this is deliberately covered up or dismissed.
Research has shown the increase in diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, epilepsy, cancer and premature aging is all linked in various ways to the poor white man's diet and drug therapies, including vaccination and medication which is given without consideration of bush medicine or dietary adjustment. Rather than address this, more and more medications are being inflicted upon Indigenous people. More money is being put into 'research' and closing the gap that they created, while Indigenous health moves further and further away from the original goal.
In the early 90s, along with two elders in the Kimberley, I was part of a team which formally applied to establish a centre that would service a very wide area, with local stakeholders at the fore; ie run by Indigenous leaders. Based on traditional methods, diet, a comprehensive and integrative program, bringing in safety, rehabilitation, and so much more which would allow every age group to benefit. The decision makers (who weren't even Australian) laughed us out of the room. Of interest was the fact that both husband and wife were on massive inflated wages, with a car each and house provided. Yet there was no funding available... Those poor gents left for home so despondent. Instead, the money went to a fund-leeching sobering up centre which simply transferred the focus from the local lockup and hospital, with poor results and outcomes. An entirely new industry to take attention from an existing white elephant: plying locals with grog and then spending funding on locking them up until they are sober, rather than dealing with erosion of rights and life itself. What a prolonged waste of life and funds.
I was often in trouble during my career for suggesting alternative avenues of treatment when orthodoxy had no answers. One premature child was dying in front of us and her mother was terrified; she'd talked about some bush medicine that she had seen work miracles on the two issues this baby had - skin and lung disorders. I helped her abscond during one night shift and she spent just two weeks out bush allowing the ladies and medicine man to care for the baby, after 9 months of inefficient medical care, because the doctor had said 'there is nothing more we can do'. The child returned, vitally healthy, breathing clearly and sadly all the doctor would say was, "See nurse, you said my suggestions wouldn't work." I opened the drawer into which we'd thrown his prescription and despite the baby's glowing health, muttered something about me endangering her life.... Since then, I have unfortunately come into contact with western, even foreign companies pushing to buy out Indigenous medicines and research is showing that even the best of them are being medicalised. This often results in them being advised as illegal for home use,not to mention often sold at prices hundreds of times their original value.
Beginning in 1984, I contacted the well-known paediatric doctor who ran PMH's children's research centre and highlighted these things. She was just not interested enough to even get a staff member to consider what I had to say. It smacks of irony to know she is one of the award-winning head experts now in Closing the Gap and has a hospital named after her. Why? So more Indigenous kids can be put on lifelong meds? Flown from remote communities where they already have what they need, to be removed from their parents and used as guinea pigs for the remainder of whatever life they have left? More vaccines? Or just more research funding or a new hospital in her name? The gap cannot possibly close this way. Especially when appropriate decision-makers and stakeholders are too scared to rock the boat.!