The bureaucrats seemed really devastated…some of them were crying


At the time (1993), I think only one Anangu was registered as disabled. It was my job to travel out bush to find out who had a disability and what was needed. 

I was a bit shocked even though everyone looked happy. They’d say, come and see this, and they would show me people with serious disabilities.  That is when Elsie Wanatjura (pictured) jumped on board. She clearly thought that I would get lost and perish in the desert. She jumped on and from then, everywhere I went, she went with me. 

People were living in poverty with extremely bad disability support equipment. One man used to walk around with his prosthetic leg under his arm because it didn’t fit anymore. Wheel chairs were not made for the desert and were pretty unusable. People were really in need of some basic things like proper beds.

We saw how hard carers were working, manually lifting people everywhere. Carers were hand washing blankets due to incontinence, they just needed some support.

Elsie and the women were pivotal in getting funding. They invited different government departments from Canberra to the lands. After a really tedious funding meeting Nura Ward all of a sudden got up and said “Everybody come with me.”

She got everybody in the cars and took them to see her mother who was living in what she called the chook shed out the back of a house. Nura stood there and did a massive rave about why was her mother living like this, being pushed around in a wheelbarrow by her family.  She went all over Ernabella showing various people in some pretty shocking circumstances – just the poverty – and by the end of it a lot of those bureaucrats, they seemed really devastated. Some of them were crying.

Nura said it was painful for them to do because they were shamed by it, but they made a point of doing it. They said they had never done that before.

Taken from a conversation with Angela Lynch & Elsie Wanatjura

Find out more about the Tjungu Aged & Disability program