A force for hope and understanding

Supporting Indigenous leadership and a focus on improving the health of Indigenous Australians for nearly two decades has made Sarah Brown AM a crucial figure in the development of improved services in remote communities.

Sarah Brown (GradDipHlthAdmin ’15) is CEO of the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, commonly referred to as the Purple House.

Purple House was established after Pintupi people and community art centres raised $1 million through an art auction in 2000. The aim was to install dialysis units in Indigenous communities, so community members could stay on country and avoid the need to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment and the cultural problems that accompany displacement from home.

“I’ve been inspired by Pintupi community leaders who have stayed strong and determined to look after their families on country,” says Sarah.

Driven by Sarah’s zeal and focus, Purple House now has more than 150 staff, operating 18 remote clinics in NT, WA, and SA, as well as a self-contained mobile dialysis unit called the Purple Truck, nine social support services and an aged-care service.

Sarah’s inspiring work has won national recognition, including the Australian Financial Review naming her on its 2018 list of BOSS True Leaders. In the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to community health, remote area nursing, and to the Indigenous community.

A crucial turning point in her role came when she undertook further studies at Flinders University’s Alice Springs campus.

“While I’ve been in the same role for 18 years, it keeps changing and growing, so my study at Flinders enabled me to apply what I read and learned into my real-life work,” says Sarah. “I could see how other organisations were dealing with issues, challenges and opportunities – my study gave me the discipline to spend time reading, thinking and reflecting on best practice.”

Having helped people from the Western desert to run a new model of care for people requiring dialysis on country, and seeing that model expanded and flourish, Sarah’s ambition now is straightforward: “To keep helping the Purple House mob out as long as they will have me.”

“I just try to be a force of hope and understanding, and to help people live a good life on country.”

Sarah Brown AM was awarded a 2020 Convocation Medal for her outstanding contribution to community health, remote area nursing and the advancement of independent Aboriginal community-controlled health initiatives. Read more about the Flinders University Alumni Awards


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