The Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS)

The Eastern Pilbara is the largest shire in Australia, larger than even the state of Victoria. To drive east to west across it will take you two days, and six hours to go north to south. The largest town in the largest shire in Australia is Newman, where the nearest big town is still a five hour drive away.

Boasting a population of around six and a half thousand people, Newman is an oasis in the outback, and for travellers, it is great place to rest before exploring the Pilbara.

But there’s a difference between just a small outback town, and a small outback town that’s also a great place to live – services. And for residents in Newman, being so far from the rest of civilisation means that having access to medical services is critical.

The Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service with locations serving communities across the East Pilbara. Recently, PAMS acquired the equipment necessary to perform dialysis directly in Newman. 

As dialysis can go on for many years, it means that local residents with kidney disease no longer need to make gruelling long trips or even consider moving to access life-saving treatment.

PAMS’ first patient Susan found herself ‘overwhelmed and speechless’ when she was able to do dialysis in Newman.

“Myself and my family and my sister, we’re so grateful for dialysis being here. We waited so long. And especially the new dialysis nurses, Andre and Tanya, they’re 10 out of 10 for myself because they’re very caring, compassionate, and humble people.”

Tanya has worked around Perth, Hedland, and most of the Kimberly as a dialysis nurse, and for her, being able to dialyze and help the people of Newman is a great opportunity.

CEO of PAMS, Robby Chibawe, say that having a dialysis machine in Newman is important for keeping the community together.

“For years now, the people would have to relocate to either Hedland, Broome, or Perth. So the benefits, especially social and cultural, whenever those elders leave the community to go to Perth or Broome and stay there, they lose connection to country, connection to family, and they sort of lose their way. Now, what this is doing is to bring back those services as close to their home as possible, that where they spend more quality time with their families.”

BHP is a proud supporter of the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service, and funded the initial setup cost and ongoing costs of maintenance. For Robby, that has profound effects on the local community.

“Bringing meaningful changes to the local people. When you start a project, you work with resources companies like BHP, the government, or state and Commonwealth, and you actually get programs that really improve health outcomes for the local people.”