Art And Culture

Using Art to Help Indigenous People in Australia

Using Art to Help Indigenous People in Australia
Using Art to Help Indigenous People in Australia

By pairing artwork with medical devices, one Kamilaroi (Indigenous) Australian physiotherapist is hoping to inspire indigenous people to better manage respiratory health conditions.

With the death rate for chronic lower respiratory disease three times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than the general population, Kathryn Potter was inspired to bridge this gap.

In order to help relieve the symptoms and prevent re-admissions, Potter designed a Bubble PEP (positive expiratory pressure) device to improve ventilation for sufferers, reported.

The ‘Therabubble’ is provided to patients in hospitals but many indigenous people are self-conscious to use it at home, which Potter wanted to change through art.

“I wanted to give them some pride,” she said. “They might be afraid to bring the device out and use in front of other people. Some Indigenous people can feel shame about what they may see as weakness.”

To offset this associated social stigma, Potter decided to collaborate with a young Bundjalung artist, River Binge, to create artwork to print on the devices.

“The art is to represent the importance of preserving indigenous culture and looking after ourselves,” Binge said.

In celebration of National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week, Binge’s art will be printed on 500 Therabubble devices for the month of July.

“The artwork helps people engage with the therapy ...they feel a bit more empowered when they are provided with the device,” Potter said. “But it’s also to educate people... non-indigenous people getting the device will see the art and learn more about our culture.”

She said she wants to mingle the two concepts of closing the gap and cultural celebration together.

Chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Between 2011 and 2013 hospitalization rates were 2.4 times as high for indigenous as they were for non-indigenous Australians.

Nevertheless, there has been a significant decline in respiratory related mortality within Indigenous populations since 1998.

Initiatives targeting smoking, living conditions, overcrowding and immunization have been found to help curb the disease.

Potter, who has been working in the health sector for 10 years, said the life expectancy and chronic disease rates are “are improving bit by bit. Working day-to-day in the health system you can see all the support that’s happening so I think there will be a transition in time.”

She has donated a number of Therabubble devices to indigenous communities and next week she will take some to Palm Island, off the Queensland coast, where many indigenous children have respiratory problems.