A Northern Territory collective responsible for aiding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika manage a serious illness say appropriate health messaging could halve medical conditions in Aboriginal communities.

Mr Marika recently underwent a second operation to treat his rheumatic heart disease thanks to education provided by Why Warriors co-founder Richard Trudgen.

“Thank you, brother, for giving me the information I needed,” Mr Marika said.
“You have kept me alive.”

For years he lived with his condition without properly understanding it as language used by doctors was difficult for Mr Marika to comprehend.

Mr Trudgen said this has been a failure of the system for some time.

Why Warriors aim to provide First Nations people with radio and on-demand content presented in language for this purpose

In cases like Mr Marika’s, messaging form Western and Aboriginal medical services are not adjusted for patients who use English as a second language, if at all.

“They (medical staff) sit down with patients, what are they going to tell them?,” Mr Trudgen said.

“They going to tell them the same stuff they’d tell them in Sydney, Melbourne, anywhere else in the world.

“They’re not taught to learn the language.”

Their approach relies on identifying knowledge gaps, breaking down terminology to a base of mutual understanding and re-building the language from there.

Mr Trudgen said this created difficulties for those in a similar positions to Mr Markia.

“People don’t understand what disease means, rheumatic they don’t understand and they don’t understand the role of the heart,” he said.

“In those first three words is a lot of underlying fundamental information that needs to be taught.

“Basic parameters need to be taught so people can go to the next level.”

Mr Trudgen said simplifying the information does little more than restrict people from the important details.

“People don’t want a simple message,” he said.

“They want evidential information that shows the cause and effect right down to a biomedical level.”

Why Warriors hope to secure funding to stretch their processes to First Nations communities around the country.

Mr Markia is recovering in Darwin before heading home to Arnhem Land.