How Purple House is Enacting Reform from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspective

We caught up with Sarah Brown CEO of Purple House, an Indigenous owned and operated provider, to gain further insight into some of the challenges of enacting reform from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective. 

If you had a magic wand, what is the one thing you would change to enhance the way we care for older Australians?

First nations communities have a lot to teach the mainstream about looking after family members and valuing each individual as part of a kinship network. Cultural knowledge is valued and there is a real imperative to look after older people the right way. Age is not seen as a disadvantage, but a revered status.

Elders don’t disappear, they are supported to pass on their knowledge and experience. My magic wand would be very busy helping people to suck the juice out of every day of their extraordinary lives!

Why do you do what you do?

It’s nearly 20 years for me at Purple House and ten before that working as a remote nurse (I will have to make a great big low sugar cake for everyone in January 2023). I LOVE the opportunity to help people to develop the services they want, so they are able to do the things that are important to them and their families. I can honestly say, no two days have ever been the same. There are challenges, disappointments, sadness and frustrations, but these are balanced by good people, compassion and hope. I am learning new things every day!

What challenges do you face working in remote communities?

The pandemic caused some extra complications in remote communities where we faced road closures and community lockdowns for months at a time. However, many communities used the time to really focus on looking after each other and get back out to country, teach their kids and grandkids. Climate change is also a real challenge for communities, it’s already pretty hot around here in Summer, so we are trying really hard to tread gentler on country and mitigate some risks.

And of course, recruiting and retaining staff with the right twinkle in their eyes is always and challenge, particularly now with shortages across Australia. Local employment training and support is really important to us on many levels. With challenges come many opportunities to be creative, to listen deeply, think and plan wisely and be brave!

To hear more from Sarah Brown and about reforming aged care from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective, watch the Governing for Reform in Aged Care Program’s webinar, Transforming for an Inclusive Future: Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Elders.