Sport & Spinal Physio Helping Out in Arnhem Land

My Gungahlin30 May 2014

Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy returned last week to North East Arnhem Land to continue to provide much needed physiotherapy services to the Yulgna homelands. Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy partners with SOS Health Foundation, a small not for profit organisation based in Melbourne, that aims to improve the health of disadvantaged individuals and communities in urban and remote Australia.

The Yulgna homelands are remote communities on the Gove Peninsula, mostly ranging in population from twenty to just over one hundred people. Most communities have basic housing, a school house, a health clinic, an air strip (for supplies in the wet season) and possibly one car to share. The closest town for main services is Nhulunbuy, which for most communities is about a 3-4 hour drive away.

Some of the homelands in NE Arnhem Land have had little or no access to physiotherapy services for many years and this was reflected in some of the experiences that physios encountered. Craig Honeybrook, from Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy attended the most recent trip to the Yulgna homelands. “Normally in Canberra we see clients who have had an injury for a few weeks or maybe months. But out in the homelands some of the Yulgna people reported having problems since the 70s or 80s.” said Craig.

“The Yulgna people have great family support and are such a stoic bunch that they tend put up with painful injuries that could be easily fixed with physio. If they had been in Canberra and if the injury had gone on for a long time, they would have seen numerous health professionals trying to sort the problem out.”

The physiotherapist from Gungahlin was particularly taken aback by one case. “We saw this one guy at Birany Birany homeland who had a hip injury when he was around 12 years old. Unfortunately, the injury was not looked at and it has left this man with one leg shorter by 3cm. Despite severe hip osteoarthritis, his only complaint is a little bit of back pain.”

This is the fourth outreach mission that physios from Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy have been involved with in partnership with SOS. Anna Crosby previously contributed on two other outreach missions in NE Arnhem Land and a mission on Palm Island in North Queensland was attended by Nearida Siv.

“Most of the injuries we see in the Yulgna homelands have been low back pain with a small number of knee, neck and shoulder complaints. There has also been a few with brain injuries and strokes” said Anna.

The practice plans to send two other team members as volunteers for outreach missions later in the year. “Our practice loves being involved in these remote communities. As always with volunteering, you get more back than you give” said Nearida.

“A few years ago, we all sat down and talked about how Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy could make a difference for the disadvantaged and we came upon SOS Health Foundation. We donate our time as well as help out financially to SOS. They are a great fit for us and we look forward to continuing the relationship” said Craig.

Craig believes other businesses in Canberra can benefit from being involved with an organisation that helps the disadvantaged in ways the business could relate to. “We chose a health related organisation because that’s what we do, but these remote communities could use any help that any Canberra business could offer.”

Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy plans on starting a similar program in some small villages in Nepal later on this year.

Anna Crosby from Sport & Spinal Physiotherapy treating a Yulgna elder from Gan Gan homeland

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