We sometimes place small data files called cookies on your device, which enable this website to work properly and remember your preferences. You can delete all cookies already on your device and you can set most browsers to prevent them from being placed, however some functionalities may not work.

Defence health capability deployed to assist Pilbara Aboriginal communities

2017 09 28 Kummundoo

As part of an Indigenous health initiative, Exercise Kummundoo 2017, Air Force dental specialists from Health Services Wing, including members of DEFGLIS, were deployed to the Pilbara to offer assistance.

Two dental teams provided 527 services to more than 100 Indigenous patients over four weeks in an effort to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous oral health, in collaboration with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Based out of Roeboume's Aboriginal Medical Service, the Mawarnkarra Health Service, personnel delivered comprehensive dental services including extractions, fillings, topical fluoride and other basic treatments otherwise unaffordable or unavailable in the area.

Without public dental assistance, the closest facility for the community is a private practice 40km away. Complex cultural barriers, a lack of transport and the absence of a full-time dentist in Roebourne have contributed to systemic oral health problems.

Roebourne has featured widely in the news as a community in crisis and recently named as one of Australia's most socially disadvantaged Indigenous communities.

However, within the community, there is a push by organisations, Elders and community members for positive change and Air Force's presence provided dental care to hundreds in a time of much need. 

Senior Dental Officer FLTLT Luke Pitty said it was personally rewarding to be able to contribute towards closing the gap.

"Although we were in Roeboume for only a short time, it was great to see that we already had changed the lives of patients," said Pitty.

A number of community engagement programs focusing on educating children were conducted including the rollout of a school-based dental initiative at Roeboume District High School in line with the National Oral Health Plan.

Additional health, nutrition and oral hygiene programs were carried out with the PCYC, the Gurlu Gurlu May a Family Centre and One Tree Day Car Centre.

Dental discussions offered invaluable information to mothers at One Tree Day Care. One mother, Janneil, said it was an eye-opener.

"I was really shocked to hear some of the things talked about - especially about wiping down baby teeth. That is something I'd never heard of. Now that we know more I'll try to encourage my kids to brush regularly," she said.

Janneil said although it was an awful practice, soft drinks in bottles were regularly used to quieten babies. Her nephew had most of his teeth removed by pre-primary school age because of the practice.

Additional community programs Air Force attended included hearing from Indigenous community members about culture, the region and cultivating vegetables and healthy cooking.

The importance of good nutrition was demonstrated during visits at the PCYC where personnel cooked and served wholesome meals to children.

Article by Brooke Marshall for Air Force News, Image by Department of Defence.

About the Author
Author: Staff Writers
Contributors from the DEFGLIS membership, community and the Australian Defence Force.
Also written by this author:

2016 05 10 ReflectionsThumb

StoreGraphic2

Latest News

Breaking the Binary: Gender Diversity in Defence

DEFGLIS celebrates International Non-binary People’s Day on 14 July 2020 International Non-Binary People’s day is held every year on 14 July, at the midpoint between International Women’s and International Men’s days...

Read more

LGBTI DV Awareness Day launches 28 May 2020

DEFGLIS Treasurer Don Robertson discusses active bystander behaviour and support for domestic & family violence victims - along with the launch of LGBTI DV Awareness Day with DVConnect Director Ben Bjarnesen DEFGLIS...

Read more

DEFGLIS Board Update: May 2020

DEFGLIS is providing advice on transgender and gender diverse policies, and seeking out opportunities for networking in the wake of COVID-19. This update provides a snapshot of the key outcomes...

Read more

Rainbow cake and conversations: 30 year IDAHOBIT milestone celebrated globally

DEFGLIS Events Director Bonnie Doyle discusses why 30 years on, IDAHOBIT is such an important day for our community. I’m at a brand new workplace this year and I raised the...

Read more

Experience in management, communication or support?

Become a volunteer