You are here

Family inspires good health

Family-inspires-good-health-pg8.jpg

Robert Smith with his mother Ethel at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, Perth, WA
Robert Smith with his mother Ethel at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, Perth, WA
4 Sep 2012

Perth’s Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service is offering more than just medical services.

Perth mother and son Ethel and Robert Smith attend their local Heart Health program at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service every week.

Here they’ve learnt that chronic illnesses such as heart disease, which occur at very high rates in the Indigenous population, can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes.

But according to Robert, one of the best things about Heart Health is that it allows Noongar people across Perth to get together.

“It’s great because you get a chance to mix with your own people,” he said. “You run into family. I’ve got my mother who comes here, and last year I had my sister and her grannies and her daughter used to come as well, so it’s pretty much like a big family.”

Robert says his mother Ethel is the person who most inspires him to get healthy.

“She’s 84 now and I said to myself, ‘well I want to live til I’m 84’, and older if I can.”

At Heart Health participants discuss nutrition, exercise, heart problems, medications and general health. They have their blood pressure tested, complete strength and cardio activities and enjoy a healthy lunch together.

Robert believes people often aren’t comfortable talking about their health issues, so having a place like Derbarl Yerrigan is important.

“We can share with each other about our health and not feel as if we’re pushing our issues,” he said. “We own this environment. It belongs to us. It’s our own, special place.”

Like her son, Ethel says she now understands her heart issues better and has learnt how to look after herself, but says the biggest difference she’s noticed since attending the health centre is in her mental health.

In the past 12 months both her brother and one of her sons has passed away.

“I’ve been down, but since I’ve been coming here I’ve been feeling much better, mixing with older people and having treatment, doing the exercises and that,” Ethel said. “My depression was pretty bad. I went through some very depressing things in the last few months. So I’m starting to cope with it now.”

Find out more

 The Australian Government supports Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service through its Closing the Gap programs.

More stories in this week's Indigenous.gov.au feature on the Noongar community:

Western view: Perth's Noongar community and Young Noongar futures