Volunteering at Purple House

Supported by Pharmacists at the Centre for Remote Health, Monash Pharmacy student Emma Buttolph was fortunate to volunteer at Alice Springs’ ‘Purple House’ during her university winter break. The Purple House is a place for those with end stage renal disease to come and dialyse 3 times a week, for 4-5 hours each time.

Emma soon realised that Purple House was not just a facility with a couple of big dialysis chairs like what she was exposed to in Melbourne. “Instead, in front of me was a home with a warming fire pit, paintings, chickens and a beating heart of countless staff who are inspirationally guided by CEO, Sarah Brown”, Emma explained.

The home supports a large Aboriginal community, some of whom travel hundreds of kilometres to be dialysed. Emma’s role as a volunteer included cooking breakfast and lunch for patients, accompanying them to appointments around town, and most importantly sitting down and simply sharing a moment or story with patients around the fire. “It’s somewhat ironic really, coming from a big city where everyone preaches efficiency and an in-and-out sort of mentality, that things at Purple House ran perfectly and calmly without any need for that”. “In fact, the calm and collected way of Purple House is fundamental to how it is run, and in my opinion is something that every city can learn from”, observed Emma.

Traditional remedies made by the Bush Balm team
Traditional remedies made by the Bush Balm team

Emma also worked with their Bush Balms team, who make traditional bush remedies and skin care products from naturally grown plants on Aboriginal lands.

“This was a humbling experience for me as someone with medicines at the centre of my university degree, as I had no idea about the need for these products that are so important to so many people living in Australia”, said Emma.

Emma summed up her experience in these words,

“The roles I had with Purple House and the Bush Balms team included things that no course at any institution could teach me.

“It came down to exposure, understanding, and swallowing what I’ve previously learnt to realise an incredibly integral way of delivering healthcare in Australia.

“I learnt that when you strip everything back, your ears can be the most valuable tool in your armoury to just listen”.

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