The rise of community-controlled health care
Jawoyn involvement in health began without government assistance, through a self-funded Aged Care project that included food voucher distribution, bush trips/ceremony, transport assistance, support for dialysis and advocating for the right to die on country.
This initiative, combined with the disaster of the Katherine floods in 1998, found Jawoyn Association increasingly at the coal-face of dealing with primary health care issues, including chronic disease, high mortality rates, the impact of acute hospitalisation and youth suicides in the region.
In 2000, Jawoyn began discussions with the Fred Hollows Foundation to explore ways to improve health in the region. The need for a focus on community nutrition was identified and a submission was made to the Federal and Northern Territory Governments to conduct a Coordinated Care Trial over the Jawoyn communities. The submission was successful and in 2002 the trial officially commenced.
The novation of the trial agreement from Jawoyn to Sunrise occurred on August 1, 2003, following the incorporation of Sunrise Health Service under the Aboriginal Association’s Incorporation Act.
Sunrise Health Service became a fully fledged service in mid-2005, serving communities across Jawoyn lands.
Sunrise Health Service
The establishment of Sunrise Health Service was an initiative of the Jawoyn Association in response to community need for a health service that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the people in the Katherine region.
The Sunrise Health Service provides quality primary health care services from nine health centres located on Jawoyn and associated tribal country including the communities of Barunga, Beswick (Wugularr), Manyallaluk (Eva Valley), Bulman, Mataranka, Jilkminggan, Minyerri, Ngukurr and Urapunga.
Sunrise emerged out of the Jawoyn Association’s continuing fight to “roll back history” and its concern with the provision of general social welfare to Jawoyn clans.
The name ‘Sunrise’ refers to a custom of the region to self-describe those living east of the Stuart Highway as the ‘Sunrise’ or ‘Sun-come-up’ mob. It is a term that is culturally inclusive, as well as expressive of the hopes that are held for Sunrise Health Service.
Sunrise’s philosophy is that health is the basis of life; that it is all encompassing and is not simply about the physical body.
Sunrise Health Service believes that healthy communities result when Indigenous people own and control their health services. The approach involves community people taking part in controlling their own health.
Since 2005, Sunrise has grown to employ more than 100 staff – of whom more than 60 per cent are Indigenous.
Community Health Committees operate in all communities and identify issues at the ‘grassroots’ level to help ensure that programs are delivered in a culturally appropriate way and that they encourage local ownership.
Everything from financial management and governance, staff selection and service delivery priorities are directed by our Aboriginal Board and Community Health Committees.