In 2014 the demand for kidney transplants was higher than any other organ in Australia, and while the Aboriginal community had the highest rates of chronic kidney disease in the country they were also the least likely to receive a transplant.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (AIHW) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are ten times more likely to die from kidney disease compared the non-Indigenous population. A staggering one-in-five (almost 18%) of Aboriginal people aged over 18 have signs of chronic kidney disease, but they only have a one-in-four chance of receiving a transplant when compared with the rest of the country.
Queenie Stewart, 43, suffers from chronic kidney disease and has been on dialysis for over five years. Every second day she spends five hours on a machine that cleans her blood and keeps her alive.
“I had to move to Alice Springs, find somewhere to live and give up my job at the art centre in Yuendumu. I am scared and I want a transplant, I have been on the list for one year now,” Queenie tells BuzzFeed News.
The disease has dramatically changed Stewart’s life. The treatment makes her physically sick. She is over 300 kilometres from her home of Yuendumu in the Tanami Desert. The distance and isolation mean that Stewart is missing cultural obligations and her children are missing her.
“I need to teach them stories and teach them about culture on country. I worry about my kids because I am not always around.”
Stewart says kidney disease amongst the Aboriginal community in central Australia is rife, pointing to her own family as an example of the wider community.
“My dad died on dialysis and my mum was on dialysis for years. My sister has had a kidney transplant.”