Our Story

About the Western Desert Kidney Health Project


“A pilot study in 2007 in Leonora, Laverton and Mt Margaret helped 25% of overweight community-members to lose weight – and keep it off, as well as improving cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the other risk factors for early death.” – Annette Stokes

The Western Desert Kidney Health Project – launched in October 2010 in Kalgoorlie – was a multidisciplinary team of Aboriginal health, medical and community development workers and artists aiming to reduce disease and diabetes by 20 per cent over three years in 10 Aboriginal communities representing six language groups.

The project covered an area about the size of Victoria and populated by almost 8,000 people whose expected life-span is 17 years less than that of non-Aboriginal people. Contributing factors in this reduced life expectancy are kidney disease and diabetes.

The project’s Chief Investigator was respected senior Wongutha woman Annette Stokes of The University of Western Australia’s Kalgoorlie-based Rural Clinical School.

Two six-tonne ‘healthy lifestyle’ trucks were used in the project. One was a mobile clinic for early detection of disease and chronic disease management, health promotion and evaluation. The other truck transported artists and healthy lifestyle workers who collaborated with the communities to create education stories about kidney health.

Why is this important?

The average life expectancy of Indigenous Australians is approximately 20 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. Major contributing factors in this reduced life expectancy are kidney disease and diabetes. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Australian Indigenous community is 10-30%, which is four times more common than in the non-Indigenous population. This is the fourth highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the world.

In the Goldfields, dialysis and treatment of kidney disease is hard because so many people are sick so the community thought they would have a go at preventing the problems that cause diabetes and kidney disease.

Where we work

The team worked in ten communities across an area that is similar in size to the size of the entire Australian State of Victoria. Some of the communities the project visited are some of the most isolated communities on mainland Australia:

Salt Lake Run

Spinifex Run